Hart: Roger Goodell and the NFL's state-sanctioned monopoly need to go

FILE - In this July 30, 2017, file photo, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell listens at a fan forum with Baltimore Ravens fans before at the Ravens' NFL football training practice in Baltimore. A group of current and former NFL players has asked Goodell for the league's support for their campaign for racial equality and criminal justice reform. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

With all the cowardly decisions, especially the recent national anthem enforcement and the concussions (CTE) deceptions, the real question is: Why does Commissioner Roger Goodell make $44 million a year for running the NFL, a monopoly sanctioned by Congress?

Maybe the NFL is in cahoots with Washington to distract the citizenry from lawmakers' own doings, much like the "bread and circuses" of ancient Rome. Football diverts attention and placates the masses.

Trump, to his credit, clearly loves football; why else would he wear that helmet hair? But getting rid of the taxpayer-subsidized, tax-exempt status, antitrust exemptions, etc., of the NFL would be a good move for Trump right now.

With all its revenues, why can't the NFL stand on its own? Anheuser-Busch alone paid $1.4 billion for NFL rights. If you want to sell beer to 18-34-year-old males, the NFL's the place. If you want to sell power tools, also advertise on the NFL, although maybe also the WNBA.

photo Ron Hart

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The American justice system, like the NFL, has tons of laws and rules, often laws layered upon laws by the ruling classes so they can prosecute whom they want, when they want, for whatever they want. Thus, it is within the power of the NFL and its beleaguered commissioner to pursue one thing and not another. Just ask "Deflate-gate" victim Tom Brady.

Goodell has had a long string of odd decisions. He toyed with penalties for uttering the N-word or sexist slurs. Yet he weighed free speech issues and reached a compromise: Players can listen to rap music but are not allowed to sing along.

Goodell has dictatorially tinkered with some rules; he once decreed that players can no longer celebrate touchdowns by dunking the football over the goalpost crossbars. That didn't go over well. If Americans wanted to watch a sport with no dunking, we'd watch Ivy League college basketball.

Goodell threatened North Carolina and threatened to pull the Super Bowl from Arizona over legislation he viewed as anti-gay. He didn't follow through with his threat, but the publicity dashed any hopes Arizona or North Carolina had of hosting the Tony Awards.

The league is in constant litigation settlements. The NFL Oakland Raiderettes cheerleaders sued and settled with the team for $1,250,000 - or, as their lawyers told the ladies, a quarter-million dollars.

To reach out to women, Goodell even added a female referee to the NFL. The gender clash proved problematic. When the female ref threw a flag and the player would ask what he did wrong, she would just cross her arms and snip, "Oh, oh, I think you know what you did wrong." And then she would administer the penalty: usually 10 minutes of tense silence.

Per Snopes: Here's what the game Operations Manual says regarding the national anthem, according to an NFL spokesperson:

During the national anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the national anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.

So Goodell does not enforce the NFL rule that teams must stand for the national anthem, yet he prosecutes Tom Brady for "Deflate-gate." Who then, may I ask, really has deflated balls?

Contact Ron Hart, a syndicated op-ed humorist author and TV/radio commentator, at Ron@RonaldHart.com or Twitter @RonaldHart.