Responsible Leadership from the NBA, MLB and UCLA
Sports can often serve as a metaphor for life. Even in areas such as responsibility leadership.
Over the past couple of months we have seen this play out on both the playing field and in the executive offices of the major sports in the United States.
It is interesting to see which leaders, and in which sports, responsibility has been owned or exhibited. It is equally interesting to note which sports and its leadership team have fallen remarkably short on both responsibility and accountability.
Let’s look at the good examples first:
Major League Baseball — it took less than a day for MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to level a five-game suspension on Yuli Gurriel, a player seen on national television making a racist gesture towards a player of Asian descent on the opposing club during the World Series. The Commissioner’s words in announcing the suspension were crisp and to the point, “There is no excuse or explanation that makes that type of behavior acceptable.”
College Basketball – after three of its players admitted to shoplifting from three stores during a team trip to China, UCLA wasted no time in issuing indefinite suspensions to all three. None of them can practice or travel with the team, much less participate in games. These suspensions were eventually turned into season-long ones.
National Basketball Association — the NBA has been stalwart in allowing its players a platform to speak out on social issues, and the players have responded with sincerity, authenticity, and professionalism. For the most part the players have stayed away from the Twitter name-calling and false accusations that mar much of this country’s discourse on the major issues facing our society.
And then there is the National Football League, a sport so mired in controversy and division that it seems the majority of talk concerning the NFL is not related to the actual contests being played on the gridiron field.
This is a league that has been accused of hiding research related to brain injuries and incorrectly reporting concussive injuries, of blackballing former quarterback Colin Kaepernick as punishment for starting the pre-game national anthem protests, and of being well behind the curve on the issue of domestic violence.
It is also the league where one of the team owners reportedly told fellow owners in a closed-door meeting that “we can’t have the inmates running the prison.” Another team owner was placed under investigation in December for allegations of workplace misconduct. He has since announced that he will sell his ownership in the franchise that he founded.
In perhaps the most astonishing news coming out of the NFL were the stories related to the contract extension negotiations for NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell. News reports stated that Goodell asked for a salary of $49.5 million a year, access to a private jet for life, and lifetime health Insurance for him and his family. Perhaps the NFL needs a salary cap in its headquarters?
To me, the NFL resembles the oligarchy attitudes prevalent in some of America’s rich, white families in previous centuries. Perhaps because these teams are owned by rich, white families.
It is little wonder that so many Americans are refusing to attend NFL games or even watch the action on television (TV ratings have declined significantly this year).
One wonders what the NFL could be like if its leadership showed the kind of responsibility we have seen of late in the NBA, Major League Baseball, and college basketball.