By Johnston Hall
Cleveland Browns All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas has joined other members of the NFL Players Association and mounted a fierce public critique of commissioner Roger Goodell. Thomas is not only upset about the four-game suspension handed to New England QB Tom Brady, but Thomas also said that Goodell is “turning the NFL into the WWE.” Thomas said Goodell’s actions were “brilliant,” but also made it clear that it probably wasn’t Goodell’s intent and that he was starting to act like Vince McMahon.
“I would equate what (Brady) did to driving 66 miles per hour in a 65 miles per hour zone, and getting the death penalty,” Thomas told ESPN radio’s Pat McManamon on Sunday.
Thomas was responding to a question about Brady’s suspension for apparently knowing that somebody on the New England Patriots staff had deflated footballs prior to the AFC Championship game against Indianapolis. Brady was suspended after the presumptuous Wells Report was released, a report that claimed Brady knew all about tampering with footballs even though he no actual evidence.
Brady won the game against Indy 47-0 and played better after the balls that were allegedly deflated were removed from the game. Judge Richard Berman is expected to rule on Brady’s appear in federal court by early September. Eventually, Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl victory and was named MVP.
On McManamon’s show on Sunday, Thomas said that Goodell was purposely drawing out “Deflategate” in order to “keep fans hooked on the NFL year-round.”
“I’m not sure if he realizes what he’s doing is brilliant, but what he’s doing is brilliant because he’s made the NFL relevant 365 (days) by having these outrageous, ridiculous witch hunts,” Thomas said angrily. “It’s made the game more popular than ever and it’s become so much more of an entertainment business and it’s making so much money.
“That’s why I’m sure there’s plenty of people saying this is embarrassing for the league. But it’s an entertainment business when it comes right down to it. He’s like Vince McMahon. When the game gets eyeballs on TV and we’re talking about that instead of actual football, that’s what in the end is the goal for everyone. And that’s what this controversy is giving them.”
Thomas admitted that the players gave Goodell tremendous power in the collective bargaining agreement, but he also noted that Goodell’s predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, operated more fairly and they believed that Goodell would also be fair and responsible. He called that “an oversight.”
“It was probably an oversight by the players because they didn’t expect him to act so unreasonably because his predecessor did not act unreasonably,” Thomas said. “But I think we’re talking about a different NFL now. Like I said, before it was more about the game. Now it’s such an entertainment business. It’s almost like the Kim Kardashian factor that any news is good news when you’re in the NFL.”
Thomas is certainly not the only player that as risen to Brady’s defense. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has been saying for months that Goodell is hypocritical when handing out punishment. The Players Association is currently paying Brady’s court costs for his current appeal and has said that Goodell was “way out of line.”