For all the chaos surrounding the NFL in the wake of the seemingly unending sequence of off-field misdeeds of high-profile players, Amy Trask believes the result may hold something positive. A counterintuitive take, to be sure -- especially amid this perfect storm of appalling cases of domestic violence -- but the former Raiders chief executive officer sees a more promising future nonetheless.
"It is both my hope and my belief that there will be a change," said Trask, who spent 30 years with the Raiders, leaving the team in 2013 and joining CBS as an NFL analyst. "I believe those changes will be at the league level, and at the societal level."
There is still much to be sorted out and sorted through as the league deals with a relentlessly negative sequence of events, and there are many questions to be answered in the wake of the league's botched handling of cases involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy.
Not the least of which is commissioner Roger Goodell's continued reluctance to appear in public and try to explain himself to fans who are demanding answers but are encountering stone silence from the normally available chief executive.
It is all very confusing and very troubling, especially to Trask, who has seen nothing like it in all her time in the league.
"It seems that so much came to a head, all at the same time," she said. "It seems like this is a seminal moment for the league."
The NFL either finds its way out of the moral decay that is eating away at the sport's integrity, or the misbehavior continues and so does the pitiful mishandling that goes along with it. If it's the latter, then the most powerful league in North American sports will have a significant downturn in its popularity.
Enough with all this waffling, starting with Goodell's ill-fated, two-game sanction of Rice that started this whole mess. The NFL needs to listen to the outrage that has been so forcefully directed by so many people, and realize that the old rules no longer apply. There may have been a time in which it was acceptable to overlook off-the-field behavior but that is no longer the case.
Trask believes the NFL is getting the message. Finally.
"Look, sports has long been a catalyst for social progress, and right now there's an opportunity for the NFL to foment transformative change," she said.
Like many of the NFL's growing number of critics, Trask is troubled by the league's handling of the disciplinary cases.
"The sense I've had throughout is that there needs to be consistency," she said. "There needs to be policies and practices in place so that these situations are addressed authoritatively, decisively, promptly and consistently. There has certainly been vacillation. We saw that with the Vikings over the course of the last five days. I applauded them for acting decisively , and I was perplexed by the about-face and then I was not surprised to see the subsequent about-face."
It was the public outcry, with a big assist from the threat of advertising dollars shrinking as a result of the Vikings' initial decision to reinstate Peterson, that forced the team to ultimately do the right thing. It was you, the fans, and you, the business owners, that demanded accountability. It was you that demanded the athletes be made to face the consequences of their actions.
"People are very, very powerful when they stand up for their beliefs," Trask said. "I find it painful to observe what's going on, but I do know that if fans, and communities, and legislators, and businesses speak loudly, it will resonate with the NFL, and there can be important progress made in many regards."
Trask believes Goodell ultimately will survive this, the biggest crisis of his tenure, and continue overseeing the NFL. But she also contends he must adapt to a new reality if he is to succeed over the long term. But it is not only Goodell who must be willing to make transformative change.
"Roger certainly has his work cut out for him, but it's also going to take a team of individuals to correct this," she said. "It's Roger and a team of executives, and not just the league office. At the end of the day, the league is a collection of 32 teams, and each of those individuals and families are responsible for addressing these issues."
It is a messy league right now, with plenty of explaining to do, starting with the man at the top. Goodell's silence is positively earsplitting, but once he does emerge from his bunker, he needs to convince his constituents that his quest for change is both sincere and long lasting.
If his actions prove otherwise, his league will pay dearly for it.