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Starkey: Goodell's losing streak

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Saturday, June 29, 2013, 10:42 p.m.

It's not quite accurate to say NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is down on his luck. Hard to say that about a guy who makes tens of millions of dollars ($29.5 million in 2011).

But he isn't exactly on a winning streak, either.

The man Sports Illustrated recently dubbed “The Most Powerful Person in Sports” suddenly doesn't seem so powerful.

The bark remains. The bite is gone. Rather, Goodell comes off like the Abominable Snowman at the end of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Terrifying but toothless.

His league looks downright ridiculous — way more absurd than it was portrayed in the old ESPN show “Playmakers,” which, you'll recall, was canceled under NFL pressure.

Then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue labeled the show a “gross mischaracterization of our sport,” and if it didn't include murder plots, he was absolutely correct.

Nearly a decade later, the NFL has entered a bizarro world in which nothing seems real. The floating characters include a possibly fraudulent Inuit chief, a former commissioner who magically reclaimed his powers for a day, 28 arrested players since the Super Bowl (including one accused of murder and one accused of attempted murder in the past week) and several thousand ex-players suing the league on the charge it hid the dangers of concussions.

Call it Roger's World.

In Roger's World, we see an Associated Press story start like this: “The NFL told its teams Thursday that any player contract they enter into with Aaron Hernandez before charges against him are resolved won't be approved without a hearing by Commissioner Roger Goodell.”

Yes, because teams are lining up to sign a player freshly charged with first-degree murder.

But I'm not going to start there. I'm not going to start with the ex-players' lawsuit, either, or even with Goodell's shameful defense of the Washington football team's racial slur of a nickname.

I'll start with Bountygate, because that is where Goodell's losing streak gained steam.

First, Goodell punted on his own verdict. Then, he turned it over to his retired predecessor, Tagliabue, who took a chainsaw to Goodell's draconian tactics.

Tagliabue rescinded Goodell's suspensions of four Saints players, acknowledging that Goodell's actions could be construed as “arbitrary,” “inconsistent” and “selective.”

Those adjectives would be compliments compared to the ones I would ascribe to Goodell's indefensible defense of “Redskins.”

As recent pressure to change the name mounted from no less an entity than the United States Congress, Goodell and Washington owner Daniel Snyder dug in.

Goodell, in his magnificent arrogance, fired a letter to Congress in which he unbelievably claimed “Redskin” represents “a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”

I passed that quote along to Pittsburgh resident Lenora Dingus, a member of the Seneca Nation, which is part of the Iroquois Confederacy. Lenora and husband Earl (Cherokee Nation) teach a class at CCAC called “Native American History and Anthropology.”

“That is such a bizarre quote,” Lenora Dingus said. “ ‘Redskins' is derogatory and blatantly racist. It's equivalent to the N-word. Do we have a team called the New Jersey N-words? Or the Chicago Jews?

“This is something referring to our skin. Just blatantly racist.”

In bizarro world, Goodell and Snyder forge on. Goodell even referred to one Stephen Dodson in his letter to Congress, a move he might already regret.

Dodson was described by the Washington football team as a “full-blooded American Inuit chief originally from the Aleutian Tribes of Alaska” when he appeared on a team-produced program defending the nickname. That was before a Deadspin report called into question not only whether Dodson is a chief but whether he is Native American.

Meanwhile, Goodell's beloved “personal-conduct policy” has become more a punch line than a player deterrent.

Not that Goodell merits blame for players' behavior. He just needs to stop pretending he can mitigate it, although an NFL spokesman pointed out to me that the league's arrest rate of males 20 to 34 in 2011 was approximately 2 percent compared to 10 percent nationally.

In Roger's World, that will have to pass as a victory.

Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at

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