Owners unhappy with NFL over Josh Brown, but why do they remain anonymous?

Shutdown Corner

In the aftermath of Josh Brown being re-investigated by the NFL for his past domestic abuse with his ex-wife, various reports have come out (by ESPN and CBS, among others) that many in the league — from players to coaches to owners — are upset with how the NFL handled the situation.

A few active players have expressed their anger on social media. But no owners or team executives have expressed their reported anger on the record — why is that?

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If anything, players and coaches would have the most to lose. But what would owners be scared of? Why shouldn’t they call him out on the record? After all, the owners, in essence, are Goodell’s bosses. Not the other way around.

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NFL owners should not fear criticizing the NFL or commissioner Roger Goodell for the way the Josh Brown case has been handled. (AP)
NFL owners should not fear criticizing the NFL or commissioner Roger Goodell for the way the Josh Brown case has been handled. (AP)

Brown admitted to patterned, serial abuse of his now ex-wife, Molly Brown, in documents that were released by the King County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Office this week, and both the New York Giants and NFL claim they learned of these sordid details at the same time everyone else did. The league’s stance is that they did everything they could to find out what happened in detail. But the sheriff’s office has since blasted the league for its ham-handed effort in trying to collect information on the case prior to the documents being released.

Although the Giants left Brown home as they traveled to London, he remains cozily on the Orwellian commissioner’s exempt list, collecting a paycheck while the smoke billows around him and the league.

That’s why one owner reportedly told ESPN that the situation was an “embarrassment,” and why CBS is reporting that other owners are wondering why the NFL handed down a one-game suspension for the suspected abuse — hinting at a cozy relationship between the Giants and commissioner Roger Goodell — when the 2014 personal conduct policy added a domestic violence initiative of a first-time suspension of six games minimum. The fact that deflate-gate appeared to be the league’s crusade for justice over suspected PSI levels, its effort in investigating Brown looks slapdash at best.

Anonymous reports and unattributed quotes can be dangerous. Assuming they were obtained with the highest of journalistic credibility, the danger comes in why the parties might have chosen to remain anonymous. Perhaps it came from a team that has an axe to grind with the NFL or Goodell for other reasons, or maybe an owner fears making enemies with Giants co-owner John Mara or worries if on-the-record quotes about abuse cases could subject them to intense scrutiny down the line should one of their team’s players find themselves in a similar case.

There also is the possibility that the media agencies are protecting the sources of their information to prevent people from linking past or future off-the-record stories directly to that owner. That’s not that uncommon a practice.

But what should stop an owner from calling out Goodell or the league office for the way they have handled the Brown case from the beginning? It’s not as if Goodell can fire them. Yes, it could be viewed as a break from the ranks — there’s a belief in league circles that owners have quietly been asked to refrain (sort of a gentlemen’s handshake) from calling out Goodell publicly in recent months and years amid his low approval ratings.

However, that agreement, informal or not, should be null and void when it involves disturbing botching of an issue that has the entire NFL being taken to task by fans and the media for the awful optics of this whole thing. The fact that this story is mushrooming amid some of the worst TV ratings in years is a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed, and many owners have to fear that the golden goose might slowly be dying.

There are a handful of maverick owners who are unafraid to go on the record on big issues, speaking their minds when things are amiss. Frankly, we’d love to hear one of them come out and say candidly what they think about how the NFL has handled this case. It’s their livelihoods and reputations at stake, and if they feel Goodell or others have made it worse, it’s their duty to call them out for it, even if doing so could ruffle feathers among the Billionaire Boys Club or put them in the middle of a not-so-pretty controversy.

At this point, this is a step that’s needed. While the NFL says it’s further investigating the Brown case, someone needs to turn their focus on the NFL — and what a powerful statement it would be, more so than a player or a coach or a media member, if it was from a team owner. With their name attached to it.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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