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The NFL needs to focus on its product

The recent Ray Rice scandal calls into question the legitimacy of the NFL as an institution. We need to hold them accountable.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

If there is any topic that deserves to be discussed continually, it's the NFL's response to the Ray Rice situation - in particular, Commissioner Roger Goodell's and the ownership of the Raven's responses to the recent events. We may be getting tired of reading articles about the entire situation, seeking to be able to just focus on the sport, but that's the entire point: nobody is going to stop watching football games over this and no revenue will likely be lost because of the scandal, so the only way to seek change from the NFL is for people, like you and me on this blog, to continue to talk about Goodell's actions and hold him accountable for them. If we want to do what is best for the sport we all love, then we need to be adamant that systemic problems in the NFL be cleaned up immediately.

So, let me add my voice to those who are calling for Goodell to resign. I may not have the same ability to project that voice as far as other writers, so I'm glad that they are also taking the lead, but I hope that I can contribute something to the ongoing discussion.

The arguments for his resignation have been laid out better than I could by others, so I don't see the need to rehash them here. I'll simply note that I agree with many other people who are asserting that the NFL's inability to obtain video evidence of what occurred in the elevator constitutes either gross incompetence or the NFL had the video all along and has been lying to sports fans around the world. Based upon recent developments, it seems like the latter has at least a semblance of truth to it.

These points present a compelling case for why Goodell should either resign or be fired, though such an occurrence is highly unlikely. It's unfortunate, but it's true: the NFL is no longer interested in anything except making money. They are not interested in their fans, except as means to a buck; they are not interested in football, except as the venue by which they profit; and, they are not interested in the players, except as the people who drive the industry. I've tried to give the NFL the benefit of the doubt before, especially as it relates to the issue of player safety, but the recent actions in regards to the Ray Rice situation has sucked whatever faith I had in the institution. As this point, I can only approach the institution with the utmost pessimism - an attitude that I hate having because it does affect the way I feel about the game.

To illustrate my point, let's return to the brief discussion we had this last week about the performance of the referees in the 49ers-Cowboys game. Simply put, their performance was atrocious. Call after call demonstrated that the referees were either out of their depth, rusty from the offseason, are unclear as to what the new "points of emphasis" actually meant. I'm not going to draw conclusions about every referee in the NFL based upon this one game, but I will note that this game evoked the memories of what it was like to watch a game officiated by the replacement refs. At the time, I though Goodell acted responsibly by calling back the actual referees once it became clear that the replacement refs were unable to do their job adequately. I thought the whole controversy was a bit overblown - Goodell really should have just granted the referee's wishes from the get-go - but I also thought that that was the cost of doing business. Sometimes people disagree.

Well, in light of my newfound distrust in the institution of the NFL, I'm really reconsidering Goodell's actions. I'm reconsidering why the referee's aren't paid all year. I wonder why it isn't a full-time job that requires extensive offseason preparation. I'm curious why the NFL won't do everything in its power to insure that it has the best officiators in sports. Why isn't the integrity of the game the most important value to the owners?

Because it costs more money.

It's as simple as that. A multi-billion dollar industry has decided that it can't hire referees full-time. The word "simple" might be laying it on too think - Ed Hochuli, for example, said in 2013 that he sees no reason why the job needs to be full-time. But, the NFL should come to the referees with the offer in hand, telling them that they would be willing to have them work full-time on perfecting their skills. If you want the job, it's yours. The NFL should be doing whatever they can to get the best on-field product.

But, the Ray Rice scandal has only betrayed the fact that the NFL thinks of their players, their fans, and the sport as a money-making gambit. Nothing more. I have no problem with the NFL making billions of dollars. I really don't. But, they owe it to their customers to provide a product that is at its best for that money. We got a glimpse into how broken the institution is, and it has me doubting more than ever if the NFL actually cares about its product.