The week before the Super Bowl should be a happy time for the commissioner of the NFL. There’s the hoopla surrounding Media Day, the hype-building events leading up to the game, and of course the Big Event itself. But for Roger Goodell, some rain has fallen on his parade this year as a poll published by USA Today reveals players have given him a 39 percent approval rating.
Super Bowl XLVII is being held at the Superdome in New Orleans, and the commissioner is getting the same kind of welcome from the locals as a rattlesnake at a picnic. It’s no shocker: Goodell’s rulings in the Bountygate scandal are widely seen as instrumental in ruining the hometown Saints’ season. The players are also displeased by Goodell jacking up the penalties for dangerous hits.
Players were given the choice to remain anonymous in the poll results, to protect themselves from any backlash associated with their votes and comments. One player who elected not to stay private is Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who has long been been a vocal critic of Goodell and has faced the wrath of the commissioner’s office many times. His aggressive style of play has earned more than $100,000 in fines during his 11-year career.
“I think it’s obvious that I disapprove,” Harrison said in an interview. “I feel like what he’s doing is not totally for the safety of players … A lot of stuff they’ve done, (such as) fining guys crazy amounts of money for helmet-to-helmet hits and all that, and saying you’re doing this for the safety of players. But yet you want to add extra games to the regular season.”
The commissioner is expected to be all smiles and sunshine. At the draft each summer, he unfailingly shakes hands and posing for pictures with the newest members of the league. Not surprisingly, Goodell put as positive a spin as he could on the poll’s results.
“I continually try to focus on issues that benefit the NFL in the long term, including, and most especially, our players,” Goodell commented in a question-and-answer session on Reddit.com. “I truly respect our players and get tremendous feedback from them. They help us make better decisions. I look forward to working more closely with them in the future.”
His conciliatory tone won’t make any difference to Saints’ supporters, who have given a rude welcome to the commissioner: they’ve hanged his image in effigy, put his picture up on dartboards and are brandishing “Fire Goodell” signs. They won’t blame the real culprits — head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who remains suspended — but instead they’ll continue to take out their wrath on the bearer of bad tidings.