TO: NFL Headquarters
FROM: David Preston
RE: A New Commissioner 9/18/14
Recent events have made it clear that the current NFL Commissioner needs to be replaced. He bungled several opportunities to deal with domestic violence issues and has now disappeared from public view, even as new allegations surface and the situation worsens. With long time marketing partners now expressing alarm, his lack of leadership is becoming a severe deterrent to league success. Not only has his leadership failed, the public perception is that he has failed, and in matters of marketing and public image, perception has far more power than fact.
Once he’s been let go, the search for a new commissioner must be done with both speed and care. In contemplating a replacement, I have pondered all of the possible candidates in a comprehensive thought analysis that consumed several actual minutes. I have arrived at the perfect candidate. Me.
Dealing with others:
In thirty one years of public education, I dealt with all possible varieties of people. The truly gifted, the deeply challenged, the rich, the poor, the obnoxious, and the arrogant. And then there were the student
I’ve played almost every sport in my life, including football. I played on both offense (center) and defense (center linebacker) through 9th grade, when I was a team captain. I played on teams that won all their games, and teams that won none of them. My parents abruptly ended my career when my 9th grade fall grades arrived home.
I spent the first 15 years of my education career coaching boys tennis (head coach), track (assistant), boys and girls basketball (head), slow pitch softball (head), fast pitch softball (assistant), and girls volleyball (head). I had a winning record in every sport I coached.
I was the president of the Lake Washington Education Association from 1976- 1978. During that time we had the first successful strike vote (1976), the first strike (1977) and the 2nd strike (1978). I worked with three superintendents during that time. The first was a man who was not very smart, the 2nd was a fine person screwed out of the job by an arrogant school board (where I got to deal with the threat of a wildcat strike by teachers), and the 3rd a calculating evil genius who I think allowed strikes to happen because he wanted it on his resume.
I received training in negotiations from WEA, attended negotiations sessions and planning meetings, and signed the first master contract in district history. That contract was so well done that I was taken to lunch by a local attorney interested in hiring me to work on labor law cases, until that awkward moment when I disclosed that I had not actually written the contract. Or read it…
Working with the egos of the rich and powerful
During my two careers in education and motorsports I was continually working with people who made more money than I did and had more perceived power. In business, salaries are often used to calculate a perceived pecking order, and I worked out how to be successful in attaining what I wanted without the crutch of money or power. There are other ways to do things.
I hosted a call-in radio show for three years. I have announced dozens of football and basketball games, and hosted many presentations and shows of one sort or another. I have published hundreds of articles on a myriad of topics, and have authored 6 books. I have been interviewed for both radio and television programs on a number of topics.
I have the ability to give a talk on virtually any topic for any specified length of time, and can fill that time with a wealth of content of utter fluff, as deemed appropriate for the occasion by my clients.
Spotless. I have never been arrested, never divorced, never accused of any impropriety of any kind, and am probable the only liberal of my 60’s generation who has never smoked or ingested marijuana. In other words, there are no skeletons in my closet.
Almost moot, as any salary likely to be offered for this position will comfortably exceed, in one year, my lifetime earnings.
67. This will appease wealthy and powerful owners wary of an up and comer who wants to transform the league over many years. In five years the NFL should be in a better place, and I can retire (for the 3rd time) in peace.
Excellent, other than profound hearing loss on my left side. This gives me the handy ability to turn a literal deaf ear to people I do not want to listen to.
Here’s what the NFL needs to accomplish on several issues:
History is created by individual moments that capture the public’s attention, and some of them come from unlikely sources. General Dwight Eisenhower’s concept that racism should not exist in the Army was whacky (at the time) and not immediately successful, but the ripples of his act have transformed society and continue to do so in positive ways. Rosa Parks decided to stay seated where she was. Title IX happened, and altered sports forever. And so on. Domestic violence is a huge problem in the world and while the NFL might seem to worst place to work for a better way, it is what it is.
The NFL needs to formulate clear and consistent guidelines that can be adhered to in such situations, regardless of the star power of the individual involved. It needs to provide avenues for counseling for all players in these matters, and if those avenues already exist it needs to publicize them. A squad of speakers and trainers must be created to work with teams in the pre-season in terms of education and be able to respond to individual needs during the season.
The NFL and the players’ union have recently agreed to a new drug policy, and while an improvement, discussions on further changes needs to begin immediately. Under the NEW policy, for example, players can be fined or suspended or both for trace levels of marijuana lower than what commercial pilots are allowed! Many players now live and work in states where the use of marijuana is legal. The NFL has now adopted a good drug policy for 2002, but this is 2014.
Here is another issue where perception is running away from the facts. A recent study determined that fully 1/3 of all NFL players will leave the game with some degree of mental impairment. What is missing is the other shoe.
What is the % of all adult men who have some degree of such impairment? Most men, and now women, have deep involvement in a sport or hobby that entails risk. What is the damage incurred by soccer players? Hockey? Skateboarding? Skiing? Bicycling?
As a motorcyclist, I’m used to the uninformed referring to motorcyclists as “organ donors” or other pejorative terms. Years ago Harborview hospital in Seattle ran a campaign to ban motorcycles, with the logic that the public was forced to pay for the care and treatment of a disproportionate number of citizens who rode motorcycles and had severe brain trauma as a result. A lack of facts to support this allegation did not deter them. On the other hand, what percentage of pro motorcycle racers end their careers with multiple broken bones and fractures? I would guess that number would be over 90%, but “guess” is the operative word.
The NFL should be in favor of, and perhaps fund, a study of head injuries from all sources to build a bank of reliable data. At the same time, efforts should be made to publicize on-going research by equipment manufacturers to reduce injuries. Equipment today is far better than 20 years ago, and will assuredly be better in the future. Nobody gains from an injured player.
The NFL as a non-profit
This to me, is a moot issue. NFL teams and players support so many different charities in so many ways, usually as a part of their marketing campaigns, that any CPA could make them “non-profit” anyway. This issue may already be lost due to public perception, and if so, converting to a profit nature will not alter things in any meaningful way. For confirmation, check the tax payments from any large multi-national corporation. The tax laws were and are written by wealthy people for wealthy people and corporations, and the NFL has both.
The Washington team name:
Is the term “Redskins” a racist term? Yes, but it really makes no difference. It is perceived my many as such, and thus it needs to go. Now. This is a perfect issue for the Commissioner. As the name violates the NFLs commitment to civil rights, it must be changed immediately by order of the Commissioner. For one, this gives the owner a handy out, and makes the Commissioner a handy “bad guy” to blame. Name choice can be a marketing coup for the team, with a campaign to allow fans to nominate the new term. Historically, there were several tribes that occupied the area. Why not reach out to those tribes to see who would like their heritage to be institutionalized? Or, the city of Washington D.C. was built on, and often referred to, as a swamp. How about “Swamp Creatures”? Imagine the possibilities for a mascot!
Image of the Commissioner
The NFL commissioner should immediately cease appearing in public in an expensive suit. The coaches do not wear suits these days (A tip of the trilby to departed coach Tom Landry and several others), and neither do the players. The Commissioner should look more like a fan and less like just another talking head in a suit. This could be accomplished by having the commissioner attend games wearing the jersey of the home team, or (slightly more complicated) a jersey created from cutting up and re-sewing a jersey from each team into one garment. This was done 40 years ago by Mrs. Unser. Her sons were professional race car drivers. One was sponsored by Goodyear and one by Firestone. She took two jackets and cut them up and put them back together, so she had two jackets that supported “Fireyear” and “Goodstone.”
The commissioner, in other words, needs to look like someone who loves football, and not power and money.
Of course, a great deal of the Commissioner’s time is spent dealing with issues that come down to power and money, but that part must be done behind closed doors.
Copyright 2014 David Preston