Editorial: Where is the Justice?

By Bill Neri-Amadeo
Updated: April 11, 2007

LANSING, Mich. — New NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made a statement on Tuesday by suspending Tennessee Titan defensive back Adam “Pacman” Jones for one season and Cincinnati Bengal wide receiver Chris Henry for eight games.

Journalists and pundits around the country are applauding the commissioner’s decision and rave how he is taking a stand that is long overdue. While discipline is important, perhaps the media should re-examine just how unfair this punishment was to Jones.

Jones was already in the NFL’s program for violating the NFL Conduct Policy. This policy is very broad and states that you don’t have to be convicted of a crime to be in violation. Despite this fact, the punishment does not fit the alleged crime.

Make no mistake about it; since he has come into the league, Jones has had many off of the field problems. This stems from his childhood. Jones grew up in a tough area and many of his childhood friends and loved ones are either incarcerated or imprisoned.

Somehow, Jones overcame all of the temptations of his environment and became a star at West Virginia and one of the most dominant special teams/defensive players in the NFL and a leader of the Tennessee Titans.

The last incident which occurred in February at a strip club in Las Vegas was apparently the last straw for the new commissioner. In that incident, a man was shot and paralyzed and Jones was in the club.

While all of this does sound problematic, there is something everyone seems to be missing: Jones was never convicted of anything. What is happening here is that Goodell is making an example of Jones.

The NFL is a billion dollar product and the new commissioner feels the league needs to show who is in charge. This leaves to ask the question: Where is the Justice? Goodell is making a political statement with the suspension of Jones and the commissioner has gone way too far!!!

Let’s examine the facts carefully. Henry, the troubled but talented wide receiver with the Cincinnati Bengals is only suspended for half of the season and he has had three convictions in the last 12 months. Why is Jones the commissioner’s whipping boy?

Jones has made some bad decisions. He still associates with many of the same people he grew up with and many of these people bring trouble to his life. What the media is falling to appreciate and or understand is just how difficult a transition life has been for Jones.

The commissioner has no idea what it’s like to walk in the shoes of Jones. Goodell never saw his childhood being taken to the morgue or to the county jail.

Goodell spoke of how playing in the NFL is a privilege and not a right. Well, Mr. Goodell should know a thing or two about privileges. He grew up the son of a U.S. Senator and always had money and education shoved down his throat.

Goodell never had to overcome what Jones has had to endure. Mr. Goodell can sit on his new throne and cast judgment over a man he has never truly tried to understand.

Speaking in legalese, Mr. Goodell should look up the infamous Goldberg V. Kelly case. In that case, the privilege concept Mr. Goodell speaks of was abandoned to an entitlement.

What this case established was that when one takes away your life, liberty or property, there was a due process violation. With the suspension of Jones, the player will lose $1.3 million on salary so we have a definite taking of property.

The question we are left with is where is Jones’ due process? How is it that Roger Goodell is above the law? How is it the NFL Conduct Policy is above the law?

Perhaps the most important point of this article and the one I hope and pray you take away from it is the fact that Adam “Pacman” Jones has never been convicted of anything.

While writers like ESPN’s Len Pasquarelli can sit on their laptops and praise the commissioner’s decision, they miss the point that Jones is an innocent man who has never been convicted of the offense in question.

The only thing Jones has done wrong is being at the wrong place at the wrong time. NFL players are already targets and what Goodell is saying with this harsh punishment is that being accused of a crime or incident is enough to warrant punishment.

Think about that folks, being accused is enough. Is that the precedent we want to set as a society? I would hope not. If being accused is going to be enough for a young man to lose his livelihood for a whole year and maybe longer, doesn’t that make us all vulnerable to accusations?

With the punishment Goodell has handed down, he is making a clear statement and that statement is not that justice is needed in the NFL, the statement is that Goodell is bigger than the game, bigger than the judicial system and Goodell is bigger than the world.

I wonder how Mr. Goodell would feel if someone accused him of a crime and based solely on that accusation, he was stripped of his profession. Maybe then he would know what Jones is going through?