There is an obvious explanation for the ejection and probable suspension of Ndamukong Suh during the much anticipated Lions –Packers Turkey Day game. While there is more vacant land in Detroit than there is land in San Francisco, that is mostly outside Ford Field. But on the football field where gladiators battle, linemen who don't like each other battle within a few contested yards. They become a mangled mess of arms and legs after practically every play.
Grant High School alum Ndamukong Suh
For an already frustrated and amped up Mr. Suh, there just was not enough real estate. After administering a few head butts to the ground – the head of the opposing Packer lineman - there was then no other place for Mr. Suh to put his foot down except on the Packer. And it was only an arm stomp. As Mr. Suh emphatically expressed, he was just trying to get his 6' 4" 307 pounds up. The helmet with a Packer in it was just a convenient hand stool.
Yes, the Suh Stomp had that terrible 2-year old tantrum look to it, but that is not the mature way to view the issue. The issue is: How the NFL should administer a remedy so that Suh does not further endanger other players, further damage his own career, or run counter culture to the NFL brand of football?
There is no dispute about the muscularity of the NFL Commissioner's discretionary authority under the new NFL collective bargaining agreement. Article 15 of the CBA gives Commissioner Goodell wide discretion to levy a reasonable fine or suspension for unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct or to preserve the integrity of the game.
Suh may find some hope in the CBA Article 46, Section 1, which provides that fines for unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct can be determined by someone appointed by the commissioner. But if Suh appeals that decision, guess who hears the appeal? That would be Mr. Goodell. And if Suh finds comfort in knowing that any fine over $50,000 must include consultation with the NFLPA executive director, I doubt the NFLPA will wager any of its political capital on his behalf since HGH drug testing and other unresolved CBA issues still must be negotiated. So absent dispensation from the man upstairs, i.e. the ultimate Commissioner, Suh has little chance of winning any type of appeal, particularly in light of his three prior fines and related reputational baggage.
The prior fines and trips to the principal's office provide ample evidence that financial slaps and verbal lashings are not working. I suggest that the best remedy is not confined to a six figure fine or even a time out in the corner of the locker room. Yes, the Commissioner has atomic-sized power to punish. But it is how you use the power that makes for a wise decision maker.
It seems wiser policy to think beyond a money hammer to nail down the Suh. The bigger part of the Suh Solution at this point can be codified in two words: ANGER management.
It seems wiser for the Commissioner to use his broad authority to suit up mental health experts to tackle the Suh. They may be more effective at getting inside his head to redirect his energy back to tackling running backs rather than stomping linemen. In fact, let's put a mental health counselor on the sideline and have a three-step program:
1. Suh goes off on a player on the field.
2. Give Suh a sideline session, and
3. Send a rehabilitated version of him back on the field.
If he gets stomping mad again, bring over a hypnotist. But don't think you "send a message" by giving a multi-millionaire a fine. The fine works for those who use the "law and economics" model, where one has the internal discipline to modify one's own behavior to fit one's own economic best interest. That rational process is not helping someone in the middle of an irrational act.
I believe Suh when he said wasn't trying to hurt the pounded Packer. I believe he was just frustrated and his tea pot bubbled over. His post-game comments reveal that his mind says he is not the enemy, but rather the victim of extraordinary scrutiny. Since his mind controls his body, his mind appears to be the genesis of current conflict. So why not get to his mind through those trained to do it.
Making him pay a six figure fine does not rob him of existing necessities and luxuries. He may not love the material joys. So that is likely an ineffective remedy standing alone. But we know he finds joy in playing the game. So a suspension that gives him a time out may have a better chance of modifying his behavior. But since suspensions hurt the entire team, why not elevate this therapeutic intervention that is less drastic.
Despite being entertained by this at one level, I am more interested in seeing Mr. Suh perform again at last year's highly qualitative level, the team do well, and the League brand maintain a good example of sport. I trust the league administrators will focus on these goals, and contextually note any remedy/punishment should only be a means to assist in reaching those goals. So the plea is to touch his mind more than his pocket because hitting his pocket may not touch his mind enough be the Suh Solution.
Roger M. Groves is a Professor of Law at Florida Coastal School of Law, teaching business and sports courses and director of The Center for Sports and Social Entrepreneurship. Visit Roger at http://center4players.com/ and follow him at Twitter@rgroveslaw.