National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell for President! Finally, a sports commissioner who is not afraid to impose a fitting penalty on the professional rule breakers. Bud Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball, could learn a thing or two about ethics from Goodell.
Yesterday, Goodell levied a $500,000 fine on New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and a $250,000 fine on the team. Goodell found the Patriots guilty of using videotape to try to steal the New York Jets' signals during Septmeber 9th's game. The Commissioner also told the Patriots that the NFL would closely review and monitor their coaching video program, effective immediately.
"This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field," Goodell wrote. "I specifically considered whether to impose a suspension on Coach Belichick. I have determined not to do so, largely because I believe that the discipline I am imposing of a maximum fine and forfeiture of a first-round draft choice, or multiple draft choices, is in fact more significant and long-lasting, and therefore more effective, than a suspension."
In his response, Belichick said he misinterpreted the league's rules but acknowledged that "part of my job as head coach is to ensure that our football operations are conducted in compliance of the league rules and all accepted interpretations of them."
The NFL rule that Goodell sites as the one Belichick and team broke states, in part: "no video recording devices of any kind are permitted to be in use in the coaches' booth, on the field, or in the locker room during the game." That was re-emphasized in a memo sent Sept. 6 to NFL head coaches and general managers in which the league said: "Videotaping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent's offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sidelines, in the coaches' booth, in the locker room, or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game."
New England has been accused of illegal videotaping before, but the team was caught on September 9 when a camera was confiscated from Patriots video assistant Matt Estrella while he was on the Jets' sideline during the game at Giants Stadium.
The Jets said they "support the commissioner and his findings."
But some of New England's past opponents wanted the penalty to be more harsh. "I think they should forfeit, man," said Reno Mahe, whose Philadelphia Eagles lost the 2005 Super Bowl to the Patriots. "We won the Super Bowl. I think we should get it. I'm going to go trade my NFC championship ring for a Super Bowl ring."