The initial announcement about the league’s investigation came straight from the NFL, and the inquiry itself was kept secret until the results were released. When these documents were released on Monday, it was the first of the league’s evidence to go public since the story broke months ago, and even then, it was the NFLPA that chose to release it publically.
It’s understandable that the league would try and control the damage caused by the story, but at a certain point, officials had to know that people would start looking into it. Rather than defusing suspicion by being completely transparent, the league’s secrecy has served to keep everyone talking about a story that the NFL sorely wishes would go away.
Ultimately, it would seem that the blame for this puzzling collection of decisions lies at Goodell’s feet. Both player safety and league punishment for player misconduct are hallmarks of his time in office, and his fingerprints are all over this situation.
The commissioner has never been one for clarity in his policies, considering that he handed down the first concussion-related suspensions to players that committed “infractions” before rules outlawing hits to head even existed. This unnecessary concealment of facts is par for the course for Goodell, as he continues to claim to protect the players, while simultaneously persecuting them with these shady practices.
It’s bad enough that he retained his power to unilaterally discipline players; it was an issue that really should’ve been addressed in the latest collective bargaining session, but the threat of a cancelled season clouded the NFLPA’s thinking. But this slow trickle of information regarding this scandal makes Goodell seem more like a dictator than a commissioner.
If the league could explain why so much of this evidence is being kept secret, these actions wouldn’t seem egregious. Perhaps there are informants on the Saints that officials are seeking to protect, or there’s personal information in the team’s correspondence that people don’t want made public.
Sadly, like any good regime, the NFL offers no apologies or explanations. Instead, it’s up to the public to demand them and shed some much-needed light on this dark corner of football.