Newsday's Bob Glauber goes the extra yard for the inside scoop on the NFL.
Goodell missed the mark on Jets locker room shenanigans
In a league that routinely fines players for everything from throwing a ball into the stands, to playing with an untucked jersey, to tweeting during a preseason game, it seemed out of character for the NFL to resolve the alleged harassment of a female reporter in the Jets’ locker room last week by essentially announcing there’d be a training program to reinforce the notion of proper conduct in the workplace.
Sorry, but the NFL missed the mark on this one.
The league announced late today that it had completed its investigation into last week’s incident, in which TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz was subjected to catcalls and hooting in the locker room. Jets coaches also staged a drill in which they purposely overthrew passes, so that players would wind up running near Sainz on the sidelines during practice.
But rather than sanction the Jets’ organization – or any coaches, including head coach Rex Ryan and defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman, who threw the passes – the league announced the team owner Woody Johnson would fund a program to better educate players and coaches about workplace conduct.
Some message. Whoop-de-do.
“Commissioner [Roger] Goodell determined that while there was unprofessional conduct, [Jets owner] Woody Johnson and his staff acted promptly to correct the situation, including a personal apology to Ms. Sainz and arranging a professional education session for the Jets on workplace conduct,” the NFL’s statement read. The statement went on to say that Sainz herself never felt threatened by the situation, despite her contention that the players exhibited unprofessional conduct in the workplace.
Added Goodell: "I believe this is the most constructive approach. There is no debate about the longstanding equal access rule of our media policy. The issue for us, like all organizations, is proper conduct in the workplace, whether it is dealing with the media, co-workers, fans, or others.”
Sorry, this one just doesn’t pass the sniff test. Especially for a league that fines players for the most seemingly insignificant transgressions.
Goodell needed to send a strong message to the entire league with more forceful action, but he let the Jets off the hook completely. There wasn’t even a slap on the wrist here. Should there have been suspensions or firings? No, the incident didn’t call for either measure. But there should have been some sort of punishment.
The preferred sanction would have been a fine to the organization, and perhaps even individual fines to Ryan, Thurman and defensive tackle Kris Jenkins. It was Jenkins who yelled “This is our locker room” when a reporter approached Sainz to see if she was ok after being the subject of catcalls from the players.
No one from the Jets interceded at that point, something that should have happened immediately. There was no place for it, and an already uncomfortable situation became even more so after the incident.
That was a moment that crossed the line, and Goodell chose to essentially ignore it. Bad call.
Even though Sainz said she did not feel threatened, she also described the locker room atmosphere as “unprofessional, uncomfortable, and disappointing.” And if others were made to feel uncomfortable by the Jets’ actions – which was indeed the case – then that’s a problem.
You can say what you will about Sainz’s choice of wardrobe – tight-fitting jeans and a blouse that was unbuttoned down to her cleavage. But as long as she was accredited by the Jets as a working media member, it was their responsibility to ensure that she was treated professionally. And that didn’t happen.
The fact that Goodell’s announcement didn’t come until late on a Friday afternoon is another signal that the league wants the situation to go away quietly. When you want to minimize bad news, release it late Friday afternoon when people are more concerned about getting away for the weekend.
For a league that’s so concerned about doing the right thing, and for a commissioner who’s willing to lay down the hammer, Goodell missed on this one.