When Roger Goodell's days as NFL commissioner are over, he may want to consider a career in corrections. He seems to have a knack for herding young men into the correctional system.
While Adam Jones and Michael Vick initially transgressed of their own volition, it is obvious that the scourges of the NFL fear the ultimate judgment of Roger Goodell. So much so that they volunteer to become statistics of the judicial system, even when it may have not been necessary. The men just want to get back on the field. And if that means they have to do a little probation or even a little jail time, so be it.
Pacman Jones' attorney, Manny Arora, freely admitted that staying in the NFL's good graces was priority number one.
While I think we would've been successful at trial, it could've been six months to a year away, and he may have lost another year of eligibility by going forward. In the real world, sometimes you have to make these difficult decisions for what's best for your career, and we didn't want this dragging on any further."
Indeed, the odds were good that Jones would have been successful at trial. The Las Vegas prosecutor weakly charged him with felony coercion. Coercion doesn't have the teeth of assault or some of the more serious accusations the family of Tommy Urbanski might accuse Jones of. So the prosecutor did the best he could. Frankly, a charge of coercion was just indicative that there wasn't much substantial evidence that Pacman's presence at the Las Vegas strip club directly contributed to the serious consequences that befell the victims.
Still, not only was Jones willing to accept a plea in order to appease the NFL, he accepted too much punishment on the lesser charge. Jones ended up pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct - a gross misdemeanor. Yet he accepted a full year of suspended sentence, probation, anger management classes, AND 200 hours of community service. That's pretty excessive compromise for a plea on a misdemeanor charge. But no punishment is greater than being kept of the field. No judge, prosecutor or probation officer needs to be pleased more than Roger Goodell. Apparently, Jones and his legal team thought the plea was worthwhile in that it would put the incident behind Pacman and appease Goodell. And Goodell had to know Jones was working on a plea deal when he refused to reinstate him just days before. The plea wasn't sufficient contrition on that day, but hopefully Jones' plea won't go completely unnoticed when he faces Goodell's judgment again.
And Michael Vick has taken the kowtowing even further. He didn't even gamble on the slim hope that the judge would sentence him to probation instead of jail on December 10. Vick just voluntarily went to jail. So figure a year of official sentence. Take away a couple of months for good behavior and a month in a halfway house... OMG! Vick could be available in the summer of 2008. And that's exactly the circumstance he wants Roger Goodell to have to deal with so that Vick can return to his career as soon as possible. Goodell is also obviously Vick's number one priority.
It's chilling to realize Michael Vick has become a man so desperate he would relinquish his freedom to please Roger Goodell.
The evidence isn't conclusive yet, but sociologists may need to take a look at Goodell as yet another socioeconomic factor increasing chances for young men ending up in the correctional system. It's not Goodell's fault that grown men cross the law, but I hope Goodell has considered that he could opt to let the judicial system be the sole arbiter of punishment. Not to mention the court of public opinion. Men who transgress society will suffer. And I hope Roger Goodell does not sleep easy at night, knowing that he gave a gentle shove to certain men into the correctional system.
I don't see any reason why any man shouldn't have the opportunity to exonerate himself without fear of losing his livelihood forever. I don't worry that men like Jones or Vick will not receive enough punishment, especially not that they deserve Goodell's condemnation. Because in life, what goes around comes around. And when Goodell sleeps easy at night, he should know the same applies to the crooked warden.