To Mr. Roger Goodell,
Sir, I am writing to you today, in this open letter, to remind you that you have but a single job: to maintain the integrity of the National Football League and the game of football in general.
See, I feel the need to write this letter, because you have taken actions in the recent, and not so recent, past that both set a precedent for infractions of league rules and laws of all levels of jurisdiction, and that leave many of us scratching our heads as to whether the concept of justice has ever managed to take hold within the confines of your brain.
We've seen you lay down the law -- whether or not there was a law broken. We've also watched you cave under public pressure, whether you want to admit it or not.
When the New Orleans Saints' coaching staff were found to have organized a bounty system in which players would be tangibly rewarded for attempts to injure opposing players, you suspended players and staff members. You went so far as to ban coach Sean Payton for a year, despite there being little or no evidence of his direct involvement. You claimed that, as the head coach, he should have known what was going on with his team.
You suspended Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for six games -- later reduced to four -- for mere allegations of crimes, for which so little evidence was found that police couldn't even warrant continuing the investigation, let alone leveling charges against him. Despite the lack of charges, you maintained the suspension for the good of the game. Any Steelers fan who is honest with himself would actually applaud you for that. He was acting in a manner detrimental to the sport, whether or not laws were actually broken. And it seems to have gotten his attention, as he has clearly amended his ways.
But the blemishes on your disciplinary record are what worry us. Despite watching former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice drag his then-fiance, unconscious, from the elevator she entered under her own power, you felt a two-game suspension was sufficient because the public had not yet seen the video of him punching her. Only after the public outcry became deafening did you apply a somewhat sufficient punishment.
Most troubling of all is your handling of the infamous "Spygate" incident. Despite a mountain of evidence that the Patriots had systematically recorded opposing teams' signals for years, you basically gave them a slap on the wrist. You fined head coach Bill Belichick $500,000, fined the team $250,000 (that's, what, a few thousand seats' worth of sales?) and took away one of the team's two first-round draft picks -- and not even the higher of the two.
We are all painfully aware of your relationship with Robert Kraft. We also find it largely distasteful that you are best-friends-forever with one of the 32 people who decide whether or not you stay employed. We all know you partied with the Kraft family at their house the night before the now-infamous AFC Championship, the game from which this entire fiasco has risen.
With all that in the open, we reach the crux of this open letter. I, as well as countless others, implore you to take the high road, Mr. Commissioner. The inquiry you, yourself, ordered into these accusations has found that the balls in question were, indeed, tampered with. It has found that members of the Patriots' coaching staff committed the acts for which they have been accused. It has also found that quarterback Tom Brady was most likely complicit. The simple fact that he refused to turn over the evidence requested of him only serves as a further indictment. And, finally, that this has occurred on a team that has already been found guilty of systematically gaining an advantage by violating league rules -- commonly known as "cheating" -- in the past should serve as a multiplier for the penalty. This is not a first offense.
We, the fans, thank you for making public the report from the investigation. It's a far cry better than the last time, when you immediately had all the evidence of wrongdoing burned.
For the good of the game, for the good of the league, and to resurrect a reputation that you, yourself, have done well to bury through your past disciplinary inconsistencies, we fans beg you to take the high road and punish those involved in a manner that is consistent with the violation of rules, and accounts for past infractions by the same team. That should stop no lower than with head coach Bill Belichick. Because, as you said in regard to Sean Payton, he should have known what was going on with his own team.
Good day, sir.