Aug 292014 0 Responses

What to Do When You Get Something Wrong

This summer, in response to multiple stories about football players being involved in domestic or sexual abuse and continuing to play football, I wrote a story. (See: How Football Can Protect Women) The story was part of a larger plan. I wanted every college and professional coach asked if they would commit to never playing a player who has a history of domestic or sexual abuse.

The first step of that plan was to have each coach in the Southeastern Conference asked the question. The plan completely failed. While many reporters responded to Tweets, talked about it on radio, and mentioned it on TV, not a single reporter asked the question to a coach. The only real response I did get was one of those reporters writing his own article suggesting the same plan I had suggested. (Thanks Tony Barnhart, don’t expect a Christmas Card from me. Apparently @MrCFB missed the note about crediting sources. At least my article got more Facebook likes than his.)

But two weeks later everything changed. Several more situations took place where college and professional football players were accused or convicted of sexual and domestic abuse. At one time, three of the top ten stories on were stories about a football player and abuse. The biggest story was about Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. A video surfaced of Rice dragging his unconscious girlfriend out of an elevator after an altercation. He was charged with aggravated assault which could have resulted in up to five years in jail.

The NFL responded by suspending Rice for two games. It was stunning. Two games. Players had received larger suspensions for marijuana use or in-game violations. Yet when the NFL had a chance to send a message regarding the value of women, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell chose two games.

He was wrong. (See: The One Piece of Advice I Would Give a 7th Grader)

He was dead wrong.

And he realized it.

Yesterday, in a letter to owners, Goodell admitted his mistakes and implemented major changes to NFL policy. While he did not take the “one strike and you are out” policy I recommended, he did recommend that upon the second instance a player would receive a lifetime ban from the NFL.

Goodell’s actions are commendable and within them there is a valuable lesson:

When you get something wrong, make it right.

No one is perfect. Everyone is going to make mistakes. The greater a person’s responsibility, the more likely a mistake will happen. While we expect our leaders to be perfect, there is no way they can be. They will get things wrong. Instead of expecting perfection from our leaders, we should simply expect that when they do make mistakes, they will realize it and make things right.

As it is with leaders so it should be with all of us. (See: Remember This When You Make a Mistake)

The question is not if we will make mistakes. The question is when we realize we have made mistakes, what will we do about it?

Goodell easily could have ignored the public backlash.

He could’ve denied that he got the situation wrong.

He could have privately made changes, while never admitting fault.

But he didn’t.

Instead he:

recognized them

admitted them

and tried to make them right.

That’s all anyone can be expected to do. He didn’t get it right the first time, but he did end up getting it right.

As he has done, so we should do. When you get something wrong (and you will), make it right. The past can never be undone, but we can admit our faults, confess our mistakes, ask for forgiveness, and make adjustments so our mistakes are not repeated.

This is what the NFL has done and now it is time for colleges and high schools to follow suit.

The NFL has set the example, now each college and high school coach must make a similar commitment.

Charlie Strong of the University of Texas has committed to putting women before football. Every college coach should follow suit.

Once again, I’m asking members of the media to #AsktheQuestion of every college coach:

In the summer the question would have been risky, it wasn’t in the news. There is no longer any risk. It is a major story, so #askthequestion.

For a long time, football has been put before the safety and well-being of women. We have exploited abusers for our entertainment and done so to the detriment of their victims. But times are changing. Roger Goodell started the change and now coaches and Athletic Directors can join the cause.

What do you do when you get something wrong? You make it right.

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