National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell was in Austin last weekend to meet with UT Austin’s football coach, Charlie Strong.
Seeking counsel from Strong was a wise move for Goodell, whose tenure as NFL commissioner has come under intense scrutiny this season due to a rash of domestic violence incidents leading to four players being suspended. A total of 85 NFL players have been arrested on domestic violence charges since 2000, according to USA Today.
Goodell’s Austin trip was a good step toward making things right — as was the NFL’s promise to help fund the National Domestic Violence Hotline — but the NFL still has a long way to go before problems with domestic violence can be meaningfully addressed. Goodell said his visit to the hotline’s Austin headquarters left him in “tears,” but even that is not good enough.
Goodell would be wise to follow Strong’s example. So far this year, the first-ever black coach of the Longhorns has kicked nine players off the team for violating what Strong calls his five core values: No guns, no stealing, no drugs, be honest, and always treat women with respect.
By sticking to these values, Strong has successfully transformed the culture of UT Austin’s football program — and the team is still capable of winning despite two disappointing early season losses.
“What is happening to the NFL is we’re sending you some players with questionable character and then you’re giving them a lot of money,” Strong explained during a weekend press briefing (video below). “So, if you give someone with bad character with a lot of money that accentuates the problem even more so, all of a sudden you’ve got a guy with a lot of money and he’s not making the right decisions and we have to do a better job in college of preparing the young men.”
Goodell absolutely can follow Strong’s example and change the NFL’s culture for the better, but it will be an uphill battle. It remains to be seen if this season’s off-the-field scandals have truly changed the league. We can only hope that Goodell’s recent visit to Austin, and his experience hearing domestic violence survivors tell their stories, helps the commissioner understand that the battle for integrity, honesty, and respect for women in the NFL is one that’s worth fighting, even if it means putting his career on the line to get it done.
That’s exactly what Strong did and continues to do with great success, earning UT Austin’s football program a new reputation altogether. Goodell should follow in his trailblazing footsteps.
This video is from Austin NBC affiliate KXAN-TV: