One flicker of hope in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre has been the mainstream media’s willingness to speak a self-evident truth: Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association is not only out of touch. He’s part of the problem. From the New York Post to the Huffington Post, the verdict has been near-unanimous on LaPierre’s reaction to the tragedy. Calling for a national mental health registry, the turning of every school into a federal security zone and the arming school administrators is not only tin-eared. It’s simply disturbed. Yes, as many have pointed out, he may just be crazy as a fox, ramping up the fear factor, helping spur new gun sales and doing his true number one job: catching flack for the CEOs of “big ammo.” If everyone in the media is busy calling out LaPierre, they’re unintentionally covering for the executives exploiting the jagged fears of a rattled populace. But it still has been refreshing to see much of the press abandon the pretense of false equivalence and call the LaPierre/NRA agenda out as the profit-driven, despotic dystopia that it is.
I do wish, however, this spasm of honesty would infect every working reporter—especially my brethren who toil in the world of sports. Sportswriters have become so conditioned to swallow whatever craven, logic-defying line oozes from the league offices, it is rare to hear a writer point out that our sports commissioners have no clothes. This ethical nudity applies to Major League Baseball’s feckless Bud Selig, NBA czar David Stern, and the man seemingly driven to destroy the NHL, Gary Bettman.
But it’s NFL chief Roger Goodell who has spent the last year doing his best impression of Wayne LaPierre. A recent cover story for Time magazine, titled “The Enforcer: How Far Will Roger Goodell Go to Protect the Game He Loves?” is a case in point more of how far the media will go to tell us that “up” is in fact “down” if it’s in the interest of institutional power. The article is a Bizarro-world profile that paints Goodell as someone working overtime to make the game as safe as possible. It quotes Goodell stating that his altogether violent sport can be made far safer if only certain reforms were implemented like the elimination of kickoffs. This is akin to saying that falling out of an airplane could be without risk if planes never traveled higher than 1,000 feet. Forget the article. We know “how far Roger Goodell will go” to protect the interests of football just by surveying the events of the past year:
• The NFL saw the number of former players suing the league swell to more than 4,000 in 2012, in what has become the largest class-action lawsuit in sports history. The players/plaintiffs claim that the NFL hid research that demonstrated a connection between football and the post-concussive syndromes connected to head injuries. The NFL continues to deny this, saying they have only been aware of the science since 2009, despite the fact we now know that the NFL retirement board, which has one member of the commissioner’s office in its ranks, has over the last fourteen years been secretly paying players believed to have been suffering from such injuries.