Can you trust Goodell to deliver justice?

by Gary Shelton on March 6, 2018 · 6 comments

in general

Winston's reputation is on the line ./CARMEN MANDATO

Winston's reputation is on the line ./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 4 a.m.

In the upcoming Trial of James Winston, in which truth, faith and credibility will be the major issues, there is really only one question to be answered by those who follow the NFL and those who follow Winston.

Who do you trust?

The 6-year-old quarterback who never wants to grow up?

Or the hanging judge, Roger Goodell, who has been known to make a pretzel out of the testimony?

What can you believe? Who can you believe?

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First things first. No one is taking any sides here. Sexual assault is a very serious charge, and only very wicked men participate. If Winston is guilty, he deserves the ensuing suspension. Of course he does.

That said, we will probably never know what happened in that Uber in Phoenix in 2016. Those who are looking for an "aha!" moment in the trial will probably be disappointed. This smacks of being a case of he-said-she-said, and as such, the trial seems destined to be murky.

But will Goodell, who has left his fairness up to question, see it that way?

Or will he twist the facts to get the result he wants?

By now, we are onto Goodell, one of the biggest railroaders this side of the Short Line. Roger sees himself as the law North, East, West and South of the Pecos. He is the resident Dungeon-Master. Every now and then, it seems that Roger likes to make a muscle.

Ask Robert Kraft.

Ask Jerry Jones.

Ask Tom Brady.

And so forth.

Really, then, the Trial of Winston is about two things. One, what does the court believe? Two, what does Roger believe? These days, Goodell is so caught up in being seen as a no-nonsense guy that he'll jam his interpretation of justice home whether it fits or not. You wonder if he will even wait until opening arguments are complete before he yells "off with his head."

So who do you believe in?

Winston? Goodell? Neither?

Again, this isn't meant to take a side. It is possible that Winston groped the Uber driver, and it is possible that he did not. None uf us were in that car. None of us know what happened. Probably, the less you think of Winston as a person, the more likely you are to think ill of him. Winston has been immature before, and if you use the once-a-knucklehead-always-a-knucklehead argument, you can at least cast doubts.

The question here, however, is whether Goodell is so determined to drive the evil-doers from his league that he risks forcing his decisions. If he is consumed with looking tough on abusers, will he come down on Winston regardless?

It's a fair question. In New England,  they still believe that Goodell acted unfairly when he suspended Tom Brady for Deflategate. The number of deflated footballs kept changing, and no one provided a smoking gun. Yes, Brady smashed his cell phone, but isn't a guy allowed to destroy his personal property?

Anyway, the fans of the Patriots are convinced that Goodell added two and two and got 426. He suspended Brady for four games.

Then there were the blurred lines of the Zeke Elliott case. The NFL concluded Elliott had been physical with his girlfriend three times and suspended him for six games. Dallas owner Jerry Jones said that he had seen the evidence, and there was nothing to conclude domestic violence.

“The NFL’s findings are replete with factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions and it ‘cherry picks’ so called evidence to support its conclusion while ignoring other critical evidence,” Elliott's attorneys argued. "The NFL's own medical experts concluded that many of her injuries predated the week in question and likely occurred during a period of time when Mr. Elliott was not in contact with the accuser."

Why, in a league that is struggling with ratings, why would Goodell want to proceed without two of his biggest stars? Is he offended merely by the suggestion of wrongdoing? Is his line in the dirt that distinct? Does he think that the masses are cheering him on as a fair and just king who, from time to time, likes to yell "dilly, dilly."

Winston's case won't get the same play as Brady's or Elliott's, but it'll be interesting to see this process through the eyes of Goodell.

Here's what we know. In 2016, a driver says that Winston rode and alone. He sat in the front seat and groped her. She lodged a complaint that night.

Winston has said, no, there were three riders in the Uber vehicle. He said he sat in the back. He vehemently denies groping her.

Here's what we have yet to learn. There seems to be agreement that the Uber vehicle went through the drive-through of a Mexican restaurant. So is there a receipt? Is it for three people or just one? Certainly, it is harder to grope someone from the backseat. If Winston can prove there are others in the car, is the driver's version of the truth altered?

Who is the nameless third party? Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby, who has testified for Winston before while both were at FSU, says he was the second rider. But who was the third? What did he see? How would he describe the events of the evening?

Let's agree on this: The truth doesn't change because you  believe the person you've heard of. No,  "Kate" isn't going to win any games for the Bucs. She isn't going to save Dirk Koetter's job. But she deserves justice, whatever that is.

What you should care about is fairness. And justice. And proof. It would be nice if, somehow, Winston could convince us. If Winston did this, it casts a doubt on his future. If his lack of judgment is so pronounced the Bucs should at least consider starting over.

If he didn't do it, well, okay. We'll go back to hoping he can grow up and blossom into the quarterback you'd like.

If not, it looks like a long cab ride back.

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