Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Maintaining the image of the National Football League ... a players-only responsibility?

The owners of the National Football League's Minnesota Vikings just recently were assessed a fine of $85,000,000    ( that's 85 million dollars ) and seriously rebuked by the judge hearing the case. Or, as ESPN's Web Story put it:

" ... the Wilfs had committed fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty, and violated the state's civil racketeering laws. In a stinging rebuke, ( Judge ) Wilson said then that Zygi Wilf demonstrated "bad faith and evil motive" in his trial testimony."

To be sure, the Wilf's attorney promised, "We believe this decision will not stand on appeal," but attorneys are paid to say such things.

I read a commentary about this which wondered what the NFL thinks about it all ... specifically wondering if the league felt its image could be tarnished by owners doing this sort of thing or only by players for abusing substances or getting arrested. This got me to wondering, too, so I did some poking around. 

According to , the rules are tight and apply to everyone associated with the NFL. This page includes ( my emphasis ):
  • The NFL is enforcing stricter conduct rules in response to several NFL players embarrassing the league with their brushes with the law.
  • The Personal Conduct Policy dictates that all people associated with the NFL must avoid "conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League."
  • The penalties for violations of the conduct rules are swift and severe.
  • The NFL conduct rules hold those associated with the NFL to a higher standard of behavior than the public at large.
  • A criminal conviction is not necessary.
  • They will also punish people associated with the NFL for any alleged acts of violence, possession of an illegal weapon or acts that undermine the integrity of the NFL.
  • The NFL conduct rules apply to all NFL players, team owners, coaches and game officials.
This is completely consistent with an earlier official NFL communication, which I found at NFL communications, saying, "As Commissioner Goodell noted in 2007 when the league expanded and strengthened its Personal Conduct Policy: “We hold ourselves to higher standards of responsible conduct because of what it means to be part of the National Football League. It is important that the NFL be represented consistently by outstanding people as well as great football players, coaches, and staff.”"

There you have it; everyone associated with the league has to be squeaky clean. No criminals need apply. The league demands the highest integrity of everyone. It holds itself to a "higher standard."

I have seen nothing and heard nothing about the league's outrage in response to this activity on the part of the Wilfs.    ( FULL DISCLOSURE: I have not scoured the internet and back issues of any newspapers looking for such response. ) Surely, to you and me, such a judgment at least suggests the possibility of wrongdoing, at some level. At least for me, it suggests — nay, shouts — a violation of the league's squeaky clean image.

The ESPN story that reported the judgment went on to comment ( again, my emphasis ):

  • "Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton ... said the lawsuit highlighted business practices by the Wilfs that 'are far from the legal standards for doing business in Minnesota.'"
  • "The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which is supervising the stadium project, quickly launched a review of the Wilfs' finances and legal troubles, to ensure they could still meet the Vikings' $477 million commitment to the nearly $1 billion stadium."
So while the governor commented on the tawdry aspect of the Wilfs' business practices, the only thing reported to be on the minds of the Sports Authority is whether the Wilfs will be able to keep their financial commitment.

In the middle of August, reported:

  • "... the National Football League said it remains committed to the stadium project despite the state audit of the Wilfs."
  • "A spokesman said the league would move forward with the $200 million loan it guaranteed to help finance the team's $477 million investment in the project."
Enough said.

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