Super Bowl

S.M. Oliva on the NFL's Bureaucratic Breakdown


How did the Green Bay Packers end up getting screwed in an obviously bad call by replacement referees? S.M. Oliva explains how the NFL got itself into its current mess. Since taking over as commissioner in 2006, Roger Goodell has proven himself able at one task, strengthening the NFL's already bloated bureaucracy. The modern NFL is governed by a 292-page constitution, a 318-page collective bargaining agreement, and a 120-page rulebook. On top of that, Goodell has broadly interpreted his constitutional authority to identify and punish "conduct detrimental" to the league as a license to punish players for off-field conduct well outside the scope of their employment. Like a government regulator, he constantly changes the interpretation of existing rules to enhance his own power at the expense of those charged with carrying out his directives. What happened on Monday Night, Oliva writes, represented a bureaucratic breakdown. Goodell clearly never planned for the referee lockout to go this long.