Upholding Beckham's suspension shows sign of progress
These days, it seems really easy to be critical of the NFL, and most of the time, it's for very good reasons.
However, when the league upheld the one-game suspension of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on Wednesday, it was a decision few would disagree with.
It appears that the league might have gotten more than just that right.
In August, after correcting its mistakes in the overblown Tom Brady ball-deflation saga, the league and the players' union agreed jointly to name former Eagles and Redskins receiver James Thrash as an appeals officer for on-field player discipline beginning this season.
It was a move designed to avoid the legal mess that often arose from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s hearing of appeals on discipline handed down by his office. It thereby avoided having him serve as judge, jury and executioner.
With Wednesday's decision, it appears that move is off to a good start.
Granted, the decision to uphold Beckham's suspension was an extremely easy one to reach. Anything else would directly conflict with the league's commitment to protect players and crack down on helmet-to-helmet hits — let alone egregious intentional infractions that don't even occur during a play.
Thrash worked in player development in Washington after his playing days. During his tenure, he helped start a number of initiatives to benefit the players after football, including working with them and their families on matters such as finance and continuing education. Thrash then took a position with the league’s Player Engagement staff.
His experience as both a player and employee in team and league offices looks like it might provide the balance necessary to reach sensible decisions.
Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks also serves as an appeals officer. The two are each paid jointly by the league and union.
Thrash and Brooks could eliminate the possibility of a just punishment being nullified on a federal appeal because of Goodell’s previous all-in-one-house approach to discipline.
Even better, is the prospect that this system might one day avoid a federal court case wasting taxpayer money over something as ridiculous as PSI.
There will also likely be times going forward where this process benefits the players as well, on matters big and small. Goodell certainly hasn't always given just punishments for various infractions, displaying instead a glaring lack of consistency.
For instance, is it really necessary to fine a player such as DeAngelo Williams for wearing a pink ribbon on his eye black as a tribute to his mother, who lost her battle with breast cancer. Especially when that same league peddles all the pink merchandise you can handle during the month of October, the same month it levied the fine against Williams. His gesture could help raise awareness, but it didn't directly pad the NFL's coffers. Williams did find a loophole, allowing him to color some of his hair pink all season.
Hopefully this new part of the discipline process continues to be successful and the league eventually brings about more change, fine tuning the game to a point where its public relations problems slowly dwindle.
There are many other things the league must do to achieve this as well, but, at least these attempts at more than standard lip service are showing signs of progress
— Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org; @EADispatch on Twitter.