MLB’s struggles with COVID-19 are a bad sign for football

Commissioner Rob Manfred conducts his annual #ASG Town Hall at #FanFest.
Rob Manfred has already warned teams that the season is in jeopardy due to coronavirus outbreaks. (Wikimedia Commons)

If you have been keeping tabs on the MLB’s delayed season so far, you no doubt know that it is not going too well from a player safety stand point. The league has already had to postpone or cancel a number of games due to coronavirus outbreaks within two separate clubs. 21 members of the Miami Marlins organization tested positive for the virus. At least 13 members of the St. Louis Cardinals have tested positive and that number is still rising. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has already started to discuss potentially shutting down the season.

It is at this point that I’m sure the league and potentially many of its players wish they had opted for a bubble format like other professional sports leagues. The NWSL ran it’s Challenge Cup tournament without a hitch. MLS had some hiccups at the very beginning of it’s tournament, but things have been smooth sailing since teams entered the bubble. The WNBA and NBA have gotten off to strong starts. The NHL has no positive tests inside its bubble so far.

Baseball clearly looks to be in trouble. MLB seems to be at a loss for how to isolate and prevent these outbreaks from spreading through teams like wildfire. Red flags are going up all over the place for college football and the NFL as a result.

Despite the warning signs, Roger Goodell and the rest of the NFL’s league office are resistant to forming a bubble for the 2020 season. The league is plowing ahead with restrictions and safety protocols in place at training camps.

Bill Belichick has a unique challenge ahead of him with eight Patriots players opting out of the 2020 season so far. (Wikimedia Commons)

There are not even plans in place to build a potential bubble. As a result, dozens of players are opting out and even more find themselves on the newly created COVID-19/Reserve list to open training camp.

With fans not allowed to attend games in many states and percentage caps implemented at stadiums in others, it is hard to understand why the NFL is not at least attempting to create a bubble plan. It seems like many traditional revenue streams for teams will be interrupted this season, so I would imagine cutting costs would be a priority. I won’t pretend to be an expert on the league’s finances, but eliminating weekly travel would likely cut down on a huge expense for each franchise.

There would be plenty of costs that come with securing a bubble site large enough to accommodate all the players, coaches, trainers, medical staff, referees and more that go into staging an NFL season. You can’t do this for free, but the league has the finances to make it happen.

I understand it also might be a bit of a tough sell for players to commit to leaving their families to live in a bubble for the next four to six months, but that is the price of playing football in 2020. I totally respect players opting out for their own safety or for the safety of their families. I know that creating a bubble puts some strain on these athletes, but it is clear based on what is happening in baseball that without the bubble, the risk of spreading the virus is much higher. Let me reiterate it from before: the bubble works!

From a player and public safety perspective, the bubble set up seems to be the only way the 2020 season will be able to take place. MLB’s early blunders underlines how difficult it is to limit the spread of the virus with larger rosters traveling across the country.

For college football, it is much easier said than done to craft a bubble scenario. Universities have taken some larger steps to account for the concerns that come with playing the sport during the pandemic. All the Power 5 conferences have announced plans to play conference-only schedules this season. The ACC and Big 12 did throw in the added wrinkle of one non-conference game to be included in the 2020 schedule.

Cutting down or eliminating non-conference games limits travel to some degree, but not as much as would be considered the safest measure possible. These teams still will be traveling to multiple states across the country, the travel will simply be more regionalized. Emphasis on more here because conferences like the ACC still have travel involving Massachusetts, Indiana and Georgia.

Texas is holding out hope for fans to attend games this fall, announcing plans for 50 percent capacity at home games. (Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately, due to the massive number of teams in Division I, it would be impossible to create a bubble setting for all of college football. The potential for a conference-only bubble to work is much higher, but there are still hurdles that would need to be cleared, including many the NFL would not face given the makeup of the player pool.

Even if these conferences found appropriate sites to host these bubble seasons, student-athletes would still need to attend classes. While some would undoubtedly be able to take classes online, it is unlikely every athlete would be able to take every class virtually.

It also feels like a lot more to ask of athletes who technically hold amateur status to isolate in a bubble for three or so months.

Look, I am not pretending this is an easy issue to solve. In fact, I am acknowledging that it is very difficult. However, I think it is pretty easy to connect the dots here regarding which formula works and which one does not. It is time to start taking the appropriate steps to suitably prepare for the season.

Let’s not kid ourselves. This virus has killed over 150 thousand people in the U.S. alone. It is disproportionately affecting communities of color. People of color make up the majority of NFL and college football rosters. If we really want to place high priority on bringing back sports, we need to do so in the safest way possible, recognizing the impact potential missteps could have on local communities. That is clearly establishing a bubble format. It’s time for the NFL to change its tune and for college football to start getting as creative as possible.


Goodell’s continued power struggle

Football is finally back, more or less, and with it has come a brand new controversy involving a number of NFL players. While what they are being accused of is not as stupid as Ryan Lotche’s situation, it still is not a good look for the players or the league.

Four players, James Harrison, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Mike Neal, all are facing allegations of PED use stemming from a report by the now-defunct Al Jazeera America. The NFL decided they wanted to look into the issue, but the players seemed less than pleased to comply, maintaining that nothing had happened. Much of the report’s backing faded once the doctor at the heart of it recanted his statements.

Goodell has the final say on all things regarding player discipline. (Wikimedia Commons)

However, the league still is insisting on meeting with the players, but the players all seemed unwilling to do so. Naturally, Roger Goodell responded by threatening to suspend the players.

No, seriously he did. Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which runs through the 2020 season, Goodell has the power to act as judge, jury and executioner. Sounds unfair right? Well don’t feel too bad for the players.

This is their fault. Aaron Rodgers pointed out this week that the players have no one to blame but themselves for the amount of power Goodell has. They focused heavily on fewer padded practices and more mandatory days off to prevent injury during the 2011 negotiations. As a result, the league got to push a more stringent agenda regarding the powers of the league office and most notably Goodell.

The NFLPA is reportedly urging all of these players to take a stand against the NFL in this case to challenge Goodell’s power. However, it sounds like Peppers, Matthews and Harrison are all going to meet with the NFL in the coming days. Neal will not though as he is currently a free agent and theoretically has nothing to lose. The latest is that the NFLPA wants Neal to sue the league over the issue. There is no word on what Neal thinks of that plan yet.

Mike Neal (far right) played most recently for the Green Bay Packers, along side the also accused Clay Matthews. (Wikimedia Commons)

On the surface, it seems like the players truly have nothing to lose in meeting with the NFL if they have not taken PEDs. They would have their names cleared and avoid a possible suspension. However, this goes much deeper than that. It seems that a number of players, especially Harrison, are fed up with the way that Goodell wields his power. Taking a stand would be a point of pride in acting as if the allegations were beneath you and a challenge to the authority of Goodell.

Unfortunately, after the results of Deflategate, where Tom Brady ultimately will have to serve his four game suspension, players have seen just how far Goodell and the league office are willing to go to maintain this power struggle. It takes a lot of investment to oppose the NFL on an issue like this because of the potential length of the proceedings. Not to mention the NFL’s persistence. We all thought Deflategate was as good as dead when Brady avoided suspension last season, only to find that the league managed to slap him with it this year instead.

The underlying point is that this will continue to be an issue until after the 2020 season, when the CBA is renegotiated. The scary thing is, with how intense the league has been about maintaining absolute control in player discipline, you have to wonder how willing it might be to budge. And if that is the case, we could be looking at another NFL lockout at the start of the decade. The NFLPA is not willing to back down from this fight and continues to look to find ways to challenge this standard even before the CBA is up.

This will be the main topic of those negotiations and you can bet those arguments are going to be very heated.

Why I am defending Tom Brady

Let’s establish something right now, I am not and never have been a Patriots fan. In fact, I am completely the opposite. I am Jets fan. I hate the Patriots. I despise Bill Belichick for spurning the Jets all those years ago. I hate Tom Brady. I can’t stand Ty Law. Randy Moss in a Patriots uniform makes me sick. The fact that Danny Woodhead was so successful in New England drives me crazy.

Brady’s suspension forces him to miss the first four games of the 2016 regular season. (Wikimedia Commons)

I digress though because I am actually here to defend Tom Brady. The New England quarterback had his suspension reinstated on Monday following a new decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals. Brady is now set to miss the first four games of the 2016 season.

In most cases, that would make me really happy. I love seeing Brady upset or ticked off. I thoroughly enjoyed watching him get battered in the AFC Championship game against the Broncos. I relish his post game press conferences when he loses to the Jets. So naturally, Brady missing the first four games of the season should make me happy right?

Roger Goodell
Goodell’s annual salary is thought to be around $43 million. The NFL is not required to release his salary. (Wikimedia Commons)

Well not exactly. While Brady missing the first four games hurts the Patriots, something I enjoy, it also reinforces a bigger issue. Roger Goodell is still in charge of player discipline and more often than not, he makes decisions regarding player punishment without any rhyme or reason.

Based on the evidence found against Brady, the league really only had grounds to punish him for personal misconduct and refusal to cooperate. His destroying of his cell phone certainly made him look guilty and definitely underlines his lack of cooperation.

However, that is about where the hard evidence ends. Scientifically, the Patriots explained away any differences in the air pressure of the footballs in question from the 2015 AFC Championship against the Colts. The NFL essentially had nothing on Brady or the Patriots.

The issue being debated now in court is over the commissioner’s ability to assess discipline as he sees fit. I think that is a major issue. I’ve been saying for a while now that Goodell should not be in charge and that the league needs to change how it handles player punishments. Removing Goodell from the equation is a good first step.

This is a man who has continually botched situations like the Ray Rice incident and has shown his true colors. Goodell is a sexist, egotistical executive whose sole objective revolves around revenue.

Now, as I have said before, I hate Brady. With a passion. I have tried to set that aside when viewing this situation. I hate Roger Goodell even more, and I will be honest, I have made no effort to set those feelings aside when critiquing him.

Jimmy Garoppolo
In Brady’s absence, the Patriots will likely start second-year quarterback Jimmy Garappolo. (Wikimedia Commons)

The reason for that is because the type of hate I have for Brady and the type of hate I have for Goodell are fundamentally different. I hate Brady because he is really good at what he does and because his success often goes against what I would like to see happen as a sports fan. I hate Goodell on the other hand because he is terrible at what he does and I do not believe that he deserves to be in power. There is a very distinct difference in the reason why I hate each of them.

Brady has become the unfortunate center of the NFLPA’s challenge to Goodell’s power. He likely doesn’t deserve a four-game suspension. He is also not definitively guilty. But this is no longer about proving Brady guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is about establishing the power of the commissioner to suspend and fine players at his discretion. A power that I hardly think he deserves.

So yes, I am defending Brady. Not because I like him, or even think that he is completely innocent of all wrong doing. I am defending him because his opponent is Goodell, and I will never be on board with supporting that sycophantic, corrupt, greedy, misogynistic dictator who has continually brought shame to the sport that I love to watch on Sundays.

I hate Brady, but I know when to draw the line.

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The NFL continues to hound Brady

You know in the movies where there is a relationship that fails but one of the people involved continues to cling on, in hopes that maybe they could salvage something. It’s usually the guy and he usually has no way of fixing things or proving that he can make it work. Right now the NFL is that guy.

Brady led the Patriots the AFC Championship last season.

CNBC just tweeted that the U.S. Appeals Court reinstated Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension in relation to his involvement in Deflategate. You remember Deflategate, the only thing ESPN could talk about last summer where the New England Patriots were accused of cheating en route to a Super Bowl victory.

Just when we all thought it was finally coming to a close with the NFL Draft coming up. It would definitely be talked about as the Patriots forfeited their first round pick in the upcoming draft due to the allegations of Deflategate. After that, it seemed like we could all put it behind us. Clearly, that isn’t happening.

I have a feeling that the Patriots are not going to stand for this decision, and rightfully so. Because this, according to ESPN, was the ruling from the U.S. 2nd Circuit Appeals Court.

“We hold that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness.”

Goodell has maintained throughout the process that Brady deserved his suspension.

Well there you go. This all traces back to the one man that is single-handedly ruining the NFL. Roger Goodell once again wields his unchecked and disproportionate power.

What this means is not that Brady was guilty or that the NFL found some new evidence. It just means that Goodell has the power to do this. And that is a problem.

I’ve been saying for years that Roger Goodell needs to be replaced atop the NFL’s hierarchy. (I’ve also been saying the league needs to change its player discipline process since July). He is unreasonable and has let his power go to his head. However, this also shines a light on an organizational issue for the NFL.

The fact is, the court is right. Goodell has the power to make these kinds of sweeping, grandiose decisions. That needs to change. There has been talk for some time about the league taking the power of player punishment out of the commissioner’s hands and delegating it to a third party. That way, the league could avoid situations like this and the commissioner could focus more on the future endeavors of the league, rather than how much he can fine James Harrison in a given season.

So yes, Goodell still needs to go. If you need examples, see Rice, Ray or Hardy, Greg. Either one will demonstrate why Goodell is not fit to be running the league. But this is also an institutional problem, where the NFL has given one man entirely too much power. It is similar to FIFA with Sepp Blatter in the way that the NFL as an institution is thought of as solely Goodell. (For a fun article about those two clowns, click here).

As for Brady’s situation, did he cooperate as needed? Probably not. Does the NFL have the evidence necessary to suspend him for four games? Definitely not. At most, Brady should receive a fine for disorderly conduct. And then that should be the end of it. There is no reason that Jimmy Garappolo should be playing the first quarter of the season for New England.

Unfortunately, it seems like this nightmare just restarted. Only time will tell if this new ruling holds up. Maybe some good will come out of this. Maybe the league will finally realize the flaws in how it lets Goodell govern and begin limit his power. Fingers crossed on that one.

The Lesser of Two Evils

Don’t you just hate when people lie to you? Or when people just don’t understand when they have done something wrong? Or when it seems like everything someone does has an ulterior motive that seems to somehow benefit them?

Any of those descriptions could apply to Sepp Blatter or Roger Goodell. Both men run probably the two most powerful sporting organizations in the world. Honestly, two of the most powerful organizations of any kind. According to, the NFL generates an estimated $9.5 billion per season with a market value of roughly $46 billion between the 32 teams. FIFA generated about $5.7 billion in 2014, according its end-of-year financial report. $4.8 billion came from the World Cup in Brazil, and only about $2.2 billion in expenses. Clearly, both of these organizations are very lucrative.

Then you realize that both of them are registered as non-profit organizations. Yup, that’s right. No taxes for either the NFL or FIFA league offices. Well, the NFL actually recently changed its stance on that. It decided to give up its tax-free ways so it could now hide Goodell’s salary. Go figure they want to be as opaque as possible.

That is definitely frustrating, as a tax-paying citizen, to hear. If that proves to be too much anger for you, stop reading this now, because it gets a whole lot worse.

Debating who is worse of these two clowns is sort of like debating which is worse, Comcast or Time Warner Cable. They both are awful, money-sucking entities with an inability to apply reason to situations that need to be fixed, but somehow, one has to be worse than the other right?

Goodell has been commissioner of the NFL since 2009.

So, we’ve talked about the organizations completely dodging taxes, which is beyond ridiculous. The amount these two men make though is even more absurd. Goodell makes way more than any of his top players make in a given year. His salary was $45 million in 2012 and it took a drop to $34 million in 2013. However, he does not have to worry about his pay for a while. The New York Daily News reports that Goodell received a package that will pay him roughly $300 million over a seven year span starting in 2012. That average of close to $43 million a year is about double what the league’s top players make every year and they risk their bodies for our entertainment. Goodell sits in a cushy chair and just suspends whoever he likes (more on that later).

Blatter has been the president of FIFA since 1998.

Blatter is not quite as bad as Goodell in terms of his greed for his salary. Different sources conflict on how much Blatter makes. One thinks Blatter makes roughly $1 million annually. Another pegs it somewhere between $5 and $18 million. FIFA does not have to release it’s executives salaries each year. However, the likelihood is that Blatter makes more than just his salary, it just isn’t listed.

FIFA also has a track record for ripping off host countries. Blatter and his organization are exempt from all taxes, local, state and national, when operating in the country for the World Cup. In fact, Brazil estimated $248.7 million in lost revenue following the World Cup just for letting FIFA evade taxes. More often than not, FIFA causes countries to shell out an inordinate amount of money and then actually walk away worse off financially than when FIFA arrived. The funny thing is, that isn’t even close to the worst part about FIFA.

Over the past year or so, FIFA has been rocked by allegations of bribery and corruption. 2015 saw the story break regarding a scheme that FIFA officials organized to generate more than $150 million in kickbacks for themselves. Now Blatter was not one of the officials named in this situation but this is not the first time FIFA has been accused of corruption or accepting bribes. Dating back to 2010, FIFA executives have served bans for violations of ethics codes. With all of this going on in FIFA it is hard to believe that Blatter has not been a part of some of the activity, taking his fair share of bribes.

Sepp BlatterWhile he wasn’t named then, things finally seem to have caught up to Blatter. The Swiss Attorney General’s office announced it was launching an investigation “on suspicion of criminal mismanagement…and – alternatively – misappropriation.” The report also mentions that Blatter’s office was searched and data was seized.

Goodell has never been accused of criminal activity, which would definitely go in the win column for him. However, he has grossly mishandled several legal cases with serious repercussions.

For starters, there was Goodell handing Ray Rice only a two-game suspension after he had weeks to review the situation and give an appropriate punishment. Rice punched his then fiancee in the face, knocking her out, then dragged her onto an elevator. The NFL received word of this and then rather than rationally seek outside counsel for a case they were not equipped to handle, brought Rice and his fiancee into the same room together to rehash the situation. That is a principle violation of how to handle assault cases mainly because the accuser is in the same room as the assaulter. More often than not, the accuser will stand down out of fear that if he or she tells the truth, the assaulter will hurt them again.

So there was that. Then there was Goodell mishandling Ray McDonald’s, Adrian Peterson’s and Greg Hardy’s cases as well.

Roger GoodellNeedless to say, Goodell had a rough 2014 offseason. But then his popularity rating dropped even lower when he picked a fight with Tom Brady and slandered his name despite having no hard evidence. Many people agreed with Goodell’s thinking that Brady was innocent but Goodell once again displayed his dictator-like powers, handing down a four-game suspension (keep in mind he suspended Rice for only two for punching his wife) to Brady on the account that Brady might have been generally aware that someone had tampered with the footballs in the AFC Championship game. Even now after a federal judge ruled the suspension unfair, the NFL continues to drag out the fight, looking to appeal the ruling on the appeal (which is also just stupid that it is allowed).

Right now, these two men are at an all-time low in terms of popularity. However, Goodell might have the slight edge. No NFL sponsors have publicly demanded for Goodell to step down from his post, (although, they probably should have). Meanwhile, Coca-cola just released a statement that Blatter must step down amidst the corruption scandal. It is a long time coming but Coke finally pulled the trigger. No word has come yet from Blatter on what he will do now that this is out in the open.

So while Goodell is an inconsiderate, greedy, sexist and overall incompetent man, he managed to make the NFL lucrative with having to break dozens of laws and fund himself with illegal hidden payments. Blatter has corruption written all over his organization during his tenure, from accepting bribes for World Cup allocations to illegal contracts.

Thankfully, it seems like Blatter is on his way soon between he “resignation” that should hopefully take place in December and a major sponsor turning up the heat. Now if only Nike could finally tell Goodell that he really just needs to take a hike, the world be a much better place.

Oh and just for sheer entertainment value because he fully deserves it: