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Roger Goodell’s Mask Fines Further Emasculate And Rebrand The Shield As Player-Driven League

Roger Goodell and NFL team owners used to live in such a nice masculine bubble. It was all bright flowers, happy little trees and palatial homes inhabited by Dick Butkus, Lawrence Taylor and Ray Lewis.

The neighborhood lived by a code: “Protect The Shield.’’ The code shielded any messy reality from the players and the league, leaving a pristine, General Patton-approved image of Americana to sell fans and advertisers.

That’s all gone now. CTE and concerns over player safety stuck a needle in the league’s masculinity bubble. Player empowerment and Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling disrupted the top-down authority. And now the plague of 2020, COVID-19, is administering the last rites to the NFL’s tough-guy facade.

The allegedly big-tough NFL can’t even pretend to be anti-mask. 

This week Roger Goodell hammered five head coaches for not properly wearing their masks on the sideline this weekend. According to several reports, Las Vegas’ Jon Gruden, New Orleans’ Sean Payton, Denver’s Vic Fangio, Seattle’s Pete Carroll and San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan were fined $100,000 apiece, and their teams $250,000 apiece. That totals $1.75 million in mask fines.

Just think about that: a fine of $100,000. That’s not just overkill. It’s a statement. 

It’s a message. It’s a PR move, a genius, effective PR move, at that. It’s a middle finger to Anti-Masker-in-Chief Donald Trump, which is an extended hand to the league’s Black Lives Matter-loving players. The NFL commissioner is pandering to his players and the media. 

Wow! Things have changed. It seemed like just yesterday that the league was using the flag as a prop and pretending to be a branch of the U.S. military. They had you thinking it was patriotic to drink a beer while watching a game.

And now, in one move, Goodell has not-so-subtly positioned himself with players who are taking a knee for the National Anthem.

For good or bad, The Shield has been rebranded. It’s been emasculated. Jerry Jones must hate this while the media love it. 

Just to be clear: Players, particularly black players, have complained for years that the league has dealt with them in a heavy-handed fashion. And now in an era of Black Lives Matter and of taking a knee against the President’s strongly expressed wishes, Goodell has cracked down hard on five white coaches.

Excessively hard. The message to players, and particularly black players, is clear.

Goodell is also sending the message that the NFL takes COVID seriously.

And the message to the President is that the league will do what it chooses, and not be pressured. Take a knee! Wear a mask!

With the President pushing Goodell to strong-arm those “S.O.B.s,” Goodell has chosen the opposite. 

NFL players kneeling and protesting are standing up, together, to authority. That’s the point. As anyone watching Colin Kaepernick knows, the NFL used to frown on that.

Not anymore.

See, Trump and Goodell have basically been in a feud, with the President calling for Goodell to crack down on players. He has pressured Goodell to put an end to the kneeling, and Goodell has resisted. 

Meanwhile, as part of his masculine posturing, the President has not exactly pushed people to wear masks. The pictures of crowds at his rallies prove that. Yet Goodell is now very publicly demanding it.

It has been a risky move for the commissioner. But maybe things have just gotten too polarized, and athletes too powerful, for Goodell to feel that he could just fly over this and protect the shield. He must have felt that he had to pick a side.

The NFL game-day protocols during the pandemic include that anyone in the bench area except for players is required to wear a mask, neck gaiter or face shield at all times.

It’s strange to see coaches penalized $100,000 apiece for not wearing a mask when the players are all right in front of them, sweating on each other and bumping into each other, helmet to helmet, without masks.

The mask edict is significant. It signals a new code for the NFL and The Shield

The commissioner’s job is to “protect the players,” not The Shield. The players and the sensibilities of the players are now more important than the league itself. 

The NFL’s logo should now include a black-gloved fist. It will be interesting to see if that logo is as profitable as the old one. 

Written by Greg Couch

Greg earned the 2007 Peter Lisagor Award as the best sports columnist in the Chicagoland area for his work with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he started as a college football writer in 1997 before becoming a general columnist in 2003. He also won a Lisagor in 2016 for his commentary in RollingStone.com and The Guardian.

Couch penned articles and columns for CNN.com/Bleacher Report, AOL Fanhouse, and The Sporting News and contributed as a writer and on-air analyst for FoxSports.com and Fox Sports 1 TV. In his journalistic roles, Couch has covered the grandest stages of tennis from Wimbledon to the Olympics, among numerous national and international sporting spectacles. He also won first place awards from the U.S. Tennis Writers Association for his event coverage and column writing on the sport in 2010.

21 Comments

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  1. “Goodell has cracked down hard on five white coaches.”

    …on five coaches.

    Their race is insignificant.

    If you make it a point to consider everything done is based on race, then you are no better than the Marxist liberals who are trying to destroy this Country.

    And just because the league is predominately Black, that doesn’t mean they’re “Black Lives Matter-loving”.

    • I second that sentiment. It should have been time spent on the fact that 2 of these coaches have already gotten covid and gotten over it! so if we’re making them wear a mask and they tested negative AND had it before!? then why the hell should we care if we get a vaccine🤔 I believe Travis said the same thing on the radio, but it should be an obvious point!

      Pointing out they are White coaches and Black players is pointless! Anyone with eyes can see the NFL is predominantly Black. And anyone with ears can hear the whining every off season about how the #NFLCoachessoWhite.

  2. The NFL over the past 10 years has done nothing but protect itself. Itself being Goodell. The game is no safer and no better to watch than it was years ago.

    He’s now just using his role as judge, jury, and executioner to settle scores and wield power. You might as well call him Commissioner Gavin Newsome.

  3. These players and coaches are tested constantly, maybe even daily. There is zero reason any of them should have to wear a mask in the first place, let alone fine them that much. What player has ever been fined that much for head-hunting? Hell, when Michael Bennett went at a jags player’s knees (from behind) a few years ago after a kneel-down in the closing seconds of a game, he didn’t get fined. Goodell is pro-Stupid, as that’s all ‘covid-measures’ are: pandering to stupid people.

  4. When NFL owners changed the way Goodell gets paid, the league began to slide.

    A few years ago he showed that he made $43 million in one year. Most of that was salary.

    After that year, they changed it. Now most of his income is an annual amount probably tied to new revenue streams, so he gets paid to bring in cash.

    But this also pushes him to think in terms of himself and without regard for maintaining the integrity of the league.

    Without growing the Fan Base, the League and Goodell are making cash like a Saudi King.

    If the NFL goes the NBA route, they are toast. And it looks like they are going that route.

  5. Just to approach it from a slightly different angle, don’t the owners deserve some responsibility in all this? They can plainly see the players leaving ‘contact tracing’ all over each other, and at the same time they can also see the absurdity of Andy Reid requiring a defroster in his face shield. How can they NOT laugh at the idiotic contradiction?

    And secondly doesn’t Goodell work FOR the owners? Can’t the owners reason together enough to at least maintain SOME semblance of logic? Maybe I’m wrong, and Goodell does wield that kind of power over a Jerry Jones or Robert Kraft. Hard to imagine.

    In days of old, there were probably complaints about Pete Rozelle too, but he seemed to make moves to BUILD the league instead of attempting to BREAK the league.

  6. Silly virtue signaling and pandering to the woke mob. There is no credible study determining that any of these masks will prevent viral infections , and they are worthless without eye protection. Maybe they slow it down a little. Goodell looks like a buffoon.

  7. This is absurd beyond absurdity. It makes absolutely no sense. Period.
    But the Covid masters must be served, regardless of real science and common sense. A message must be sent.
    Goodell and company really have no idea just how silly, political, and authoritarian they look, and the price they are going to pay over time.
    I’m basically done, and folks like me are the real Canaries in the Coal Mine.

  8. It’s all posing. Anyone who thinks the enforcement of mask wearing is about health??? I throw th BS flag…..and you’d be full of it. It’s about power and creating chaos before an election. BLM slides right in next to it. I was never one to boycott the NFL but between the mask sham, poorly timed crown cheer tracks and players wearing criminal’s names on their helmets it’s getting hard to watch

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