How the $9B NFL Has a Credibility Problem

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, subjective judge/jury/executioner

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

People do dumb things. Some, worse than others. Then there are some so despicable, you can hardly believe it.

The most recent example as far as the National Football League (NFL)* is concerned was a player beating his fiancée senseless, then dragging her lifeless body out of an elevator. I won’t mention the scumbag by name, and there are many, much deeper issues that are at play here. Yesterday, the NFL decided that this was merely worth a two-game suspension. Like I said, people do dumb things.

Whether it be the employees of an organization or the players of a league, consequences should be clearly outlined for certain behaviors. However, the NFL – and specifically the commissioner – continues to lose credibility in this category.

The NFL does not have a consistent, stated list of consequences for player (and owner) behavior. Essentially, it is up to the commissioner’s discretion, each on a case-by-case basis, as to what, if any, the punishment will be and to what extent. Case in point: players in the past year who have committed seemingly less “crimes,” such as taking performance-enhancing substances, or recreational drugs, have received upwards of twice the punishment as the scumbag mentioned earlier.

Credibility in an organization can be achieved with this simple formula:
Objectivity + Consistency = Credibility

  • Be Objective: This is why the CEO of a large corporation doesn’t run the HR or Compliance Departments. It removes any doubt of impartiality when deciding punishment.
  • Be Consistent: The same rules or punishment should apply to all people that commit the same rule infractions.
  • Be Credible: Have rules clearly stated, consequences clearly defined, and a third-party determining the result. Save the organizational leader for an appeal or the extremely serious matters.

We all know life is not fair, but when employees are held to different standards or receive a different punishment based on subjective observation, that creates a groundswell of mistrust within an organization. And the ground is definitely shaking in the NFL.

* While it has been joked that it stands for the “No Fun League” (we can’t have our employees celebrating too much playing the game they’ve loved since a kid), or the “Not For Long” League (average career is less than four years), it is quickly gaining a reputation as the “Not Fair League.”

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