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20 Sep '14

Roger Goodell and why doing the right thing at the right time matters

Posted by T.J. Addington in decision making
A picture of Roger Goodell's press conference regarding Ray Rice

I have to admit that growing up in Hong Kong in the sixties did not translate into being a huge football fan. However, I have been watching this story with interest both from a leadership point of view on Roger Goodell's part and from a domestic violence point of view.

Roger Goodell is trying to keep his job after badly handling Ray Rice's abuse of his then fiancee. In July Goodell suspended running back Ray Rice for two games for knocking her out with a punch in an elevator. Then, when people responded in anger he announced a domestic violence policy punishment of six games and then banned Rice indefinitely. 

Unfortunately there have been many instances of domestic abuse in the NFL and the response from the league has been less than consistent. Goodell's handling of the Rice Affair, however, revealed both a failure of leadership and a terrible insensitivity toward one of society's largest problems, domestic abuse.

On the leadership side, one generally gets one chance to get it right in a crisis like Goodell faced. That is why wise leaders don't do what Goodell did and make a decision by themselves. They consult others. Further they think about who is impacted by their decision. It would seem that Goodell chose the economics of football over the hundreds of thousands of victims of domestic abuse who saw his two game suspension to be a farce. To make matters worse he compounded his leadership failure by a second and then third change of mind. He failed at a critical juncture of his leadership and probably should not keep his job.

On the subject of domestic abuse. What Goodell did reflects the deep insensitivity of many toward how men treat women in our world. Abuse is never, never OK and yet here it is treated as a trivial matter by a leader of one of the most well known sports leagues in America. How can that be in 2014? With a slap on the hand life (read football) was to go on as normal. Fortunately society said "no!" and forced him to change his mind. Even then he didn't get it and society said "no" again. No one gets a pass when they mistreat their spouse! People put pressure on sponsors who responded with pulling their promotions and finally forcing the league to take notice.

Goodell did not even get his press conference right, arriving fifteen minutes late and poorly trying to explain his actions. Leaders need to do the right thing at the right time and in cases like this you get one chance to get it right. 

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