Point/Counterpoint: Who has the worst commissioner?

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Both the NFL and MLB have huge fanbases, and each one has what it loves and what it loves to hate. For the latter, both can agree on widespread hatred for each league’s Commissioner: Roger Goodell for the NFL and Rob Manfred for MLB. This week, Sam Zelin and Mike Mavredakis are here to debate which of these two is the most deserving of all the hate. 


MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred takes questions about the Houston Astros during a news conference at the Atlanta Braves' spring training facility Sunday.  Photo courtesy of Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred takes questions about the Houston Astros during a news conference at the Atlanta Braves’ spring training facility Sunday. Photo courtesy of Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

Sam Zelin:   

Roger Goodell took over from Paul Tagliablue in the summer of 2006, and it’s been all downhill from there. Goodell has made it clear over the years that he is in the pocket of the owners, and while, yes, they are the ones paying him, you’d think the person in charge of running one of the most popular sports leagues in the world would be a little more objective. Here, let’s go through just a few of the times Goodell has made it blatantly clear that he is never going to be on the side of his players.   

First off, in 2013, amid massive criticism of the game of football as a whole due to brain damage of former players, Goodell thought it would be a good idea to put a cap on the amount of compensation that the victims could get from the NFL. Luckily, this totally unethical decision did not make it through the U.S. legal system, and the cap was removed. Next, there’s the time he suspended Tom Brady for four games for the DeflateGate scandal and then decided it would be okay to act as the “unbiased arbitrator” in the NFLPA’s appeal case. And then, of course, there’s the stance he took on National Anthem protests, where he said that players must either stand or stay in the locker room, with noncompliance being a punishable offense. 

The NFL is a business, and if the players are employees of this business, Roger Goodell is a horrible boss. Just to put the icing on the cake, this man makes $40 million a year, and the highest average salary for a player in his league is $35 million (Russell Wilson). I don’t know about you, but I think he should either have to suit up and play for that money, or we should be talking about a salary cap. 

Mike Mavredakis: 

While Roger Goodell has been the gold standard for scummy commissioners for over a decade Rob Manfred is right on his tail. Since Manfred took office in January 2015, he has done everything in his power to make baseball unwatchable.  

His introduction of the three-batter minimum was only his most recent attack on the great game I grew up watching. It’s a heinous rule that eliminates an element of strategy from the game in order to save maybe 10 minutes in a game, or 40 if you’re a Tampa Bay Rays fan. His whole philosophy has been to increase the pace of play, so that people are less likely to turn the game off for being boring. People who care about the game won’t turn it off. People turn off the game because they are hit with a commercial break seemingly every five to 10 minutes.  


Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve smiles before taking batting practice during spring training baseball practice, Tuesday, in West Palm Beach, Fla.  Photo courtesy of Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP

Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve smiles before taking batting practice during spring training baseball practice, Tuesday, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Photo courtesy of Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP

Then there’s the Houston Astros cheating scandal, which has received widespread, and constant, backlash. Manfred decided not to punish players for, among other things, using cameras to discern the catcher’s signs, and then bang a trash can to let the hitter know what was coming. This cheating scandal likely had a direct impact on other players’ career paths, specifically young pitchers coming up from the minor leagues to face the Astros.  

At least Goodell hands out suspensions for cheating scandals, even if they’re overblown suspensions. I would like to point out that neither Goodell nor Manfred know what to do about players accused or arrested for domestic violence and violent crimes — I believe they should be handed a ban from their respective sports. 

Sam Zelin: 

I completely agree with the fact that Manfred has done a bad job since he took over from Bud Selig in 2015, but what we’re arguing here is who is worse, not whether or not they’re bad in the first place. Goodell’s tenure has been almost a decade longer, and he’s had multiple chances to improve. Not only has he botched these opportunities, but it’s arguable that he has gotten worse over time. The Astros’ sign-stealing is Manfred’s first big test, and I’m not going to argue that he’s dealing with it badly, but Goodell faced a similar situation with Spygate in 2007, and responded with such strict sanctions against the Patriots that they went on to a last place finish in the AFC East. Oh wait, never mind — that was the year that they were a helmet catch away from the second perfect season ever. Great penalties, Roger! Okay, but if we’re going to call that a rookie mistake, Goodell’s handling of Patriot scandal No. 2 in 2015 should have been better. Instead, we got his aforementioned ignoring of the NFLPA’s request for a fair trial, as he cemented himself as the judge, jury and executioner of the NFL. Sure, Manfred could absolutely build as bad of a resume in the coming years, but it’s important to remember that as long as Goodell’s in office he’ll be adding to his, and I just can’t see Manfred keeping pace with that. 

Mike Mavredakis: 

You’d be surprised how much someone in power can mess up in five years. Sure Manfred hasn’t had the job for as long, but he certainly has taken every chance to do the wrong thing. Just look at how royally he’s screwed up Player’s Weekend, those black and white jerseys were atrocious. Then take a second to go through his suspension history. 

There’s no reason Aroldis Chapman should have able to pitch in the postseason after his 30-game suspension in 2016 for choking his girlfriend and firing a gun in his home. There’s no reason he should have a ring on his finger.  

Speaking of championships, this week Manfred called the Commissioner’s Trophy, which is given to the winner of that year’s World Series, a “piece of metal” to ESPN’s Karl Ravech. How disrespectful to the sport he serves. How tone-deaf can you be to say that about the trophy named after you? 


Mike Mavredakis  is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at michael.quinn-mavredakis@uconn.edu and tweets @MMavredakis.

Sam Zelin is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sam.zelin@uconn.edu.

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