Doing the Right Thing in Sports

How the NFL and NHL failing to handle scandals correctly is isolating younger generations of fans.


A fan wears a T-shirt depicting Roger Goodell as a clown. Photo: Getty Images

Sports are supposed to celebrate competition, success, diversity, and talent. However, the NFL and NHL have both recently failed in making sports a fun and safe environment for their players and employees. The Washington Football Team (formerly Redskins) have been engulfed in a scandal involving the top executives of the company for the better part of a year. The Blackhawks, Chicago’s hockey team, have been embroiled in a sexual assault scandal for the past few months. Both clubs at first acted correctly, firing who had to be fired. However, certain shady individuals still remain employed in both leagues and it is quite evident that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman are failing to follow a morally correct path to redemption.


We live in an age with of secrets. These secrets can be anything from fibbing about your height on Bumble to government level cover-ups. Sick and tired of dealing with secrets and scandals, younger generations in the U.S. have shown they place a high value on transparency within a business or company. A study with more than 1,000 participants done by The Org showed that 84% of young Americans favor organizations that have transparent cultures.


Without a doubt, the ownership level of sports is an “old boys club.” Who knows what secrets and shifty business deals hide behind the veil of sports leagues?


Recently, Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden was fired for racist, sexist and homophobic comments he said in emails with Bruce Allen, the former President of the Washington Football Team (WFT). These emails were leaked after the NFL launched an investigation into dozens of allegations against Dan Snyder, owner of the WFT and other team executives that accused them of creating a work environment in which women were constantly sexually harassed. The top brass even went so far as to allegedly circulate a video from a photoshoot with the cheerleaders, which included semi-nude photos with props covering up explicit areas. The video sent amongst executives apparently highlighted moments during which nudity was exposed. Read the Washington Post article here


Dan and Tanya Snyder. Photo: Sports Illustrated

Clearly, disturbing problems like this run deep in the roots of these organizations. The NFL’s punishment for Dan Snyder: a $10 million dollar fine (pocket change to a billionaire like Snyder) and Dan Snyder handing over day-to-day operations to Tanya Snyder. Yes, his wife now runs the organization. No bias could possibly be involved there.


At this point, Goodell has shown absolutely no transparency and now Congress is getting involved. The NFL had until November 4th to hand over details of the investigation to an oversight committee, but they didn’t. Many of those who testified identified themselves in the Washington Post, so who is Goodell trying to protect? How far and how deep does this issue run in the NFL.? Many believe Goodell is protecting other NFL owners from the same fate of the WFT.


In the NHL, things aren’t looking much better. Chicago Blackhawks player Kyle Beach was sexually assaulted by video coach Brad Aldrich during their Stanley Cup winning season in 2010. Management and coaches were made aware of the situation and yet, they decided to brush it under the rug. Winning was more important than doing the right thing. Soon after, Aldrich sexually assaulted a minor.


Former NHL player Kyle Beach. Photo: Getty Images

Sports are amazing because of the intense competition and physical prowess. However, there is a point where the masculinity can turn toxic.


NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is a lawyer, and he is trying to protect and defend the NHL as a league. However, he comes off as uncaring, and seemingly unempathetic to the situation. Bettman refused to force Kevin Cheveldayoff out of his GM position with the Winnipeg Jets even though Cheveldayoff was aware of Beach’s sexual assault. In a decision headed by Bettman, the NHL fined the Blackhawks - a billion-dollar organization – was only fined a “hefty of $2 million for the gross misconduct and cover-up.


NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Photo: Getty Images

To put this into perspective, the Devils were fined $3million for circumventing the salary cap and the Coyotes were docked draft picks for the objectively lesser offense of misconducting fitness tests. Bettman even refused to pay for therapy for the younger victim of Aldrich. Cruel actions like these are why younger generations despise the smug, holier-than-thou, and often criminal attitudes of commissioners and team owners.


There is a very evident issue of transparency in the echelon of sports leagues. Younger audiences want a change in leadership. Enough of protecting the rich, shady owners. Be transparent, do the right thing, own up to mistakes, enact change, and learn from it. Sports should be a celebration of athleticism instead of driven by the desire to win at any and all costs. Do the right thing at the right time, regardless of who is watching, simply because it is the right thing to do.