The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

December 11, 2012

NFL violent deaths show league must improve focus on education

(Continued)

DALLAS —

"There should be an automatic two-game suspension on the first DUI," said CBS Sports analyst Bill Cowher, who guided the Steelers to victory in the Super Bowl after the 2005 season. "That's the only way to get the message through. The only hammer you have is playing time. Fines won't get it done."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will probably face pressure to investigate whether collisions that cause concussions were a factor in Belcher's actions, Burton and Rosner said.

"I don't know if there's a correlation, but that may be the perception and the NFL should be seen to be examining the possibility," Burton said.

The tragedies of the past week are unlikely to affect the league's business over the long term, said Steve Rosner, co- founder and a partner in East Rutherford, N.J.-based 16W Marketing.

"It's a black eye on the individuals rather than the league," Rosner, whose clients include baseball's Cal Ripken Jr., basketball's Hakeem Olajuwon and football's Howie Long, each retired and a member of his sport's Hall of Fame, said in a telephone interview. "The NFL is on a very high pedestal and it would take a lot to knock it down."

The sport is almost immune to negative publicity, Stephen McDaniel, who teaches sports and entertainment marketing at the University of Maryland, said in an email.

Television ratings and league revenue are at record levels even after a lockout and scandals involving some its highest- profile players in recent years.

Quarterback Michael Vick's conviction for dog-fighting; wide receiver Plaxico Burress's incarceration on a weapons charge; Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension after being accused but not charged with assaulting two women; a 162-day player lockout, criticism over the use of replacement referees; or a bounty scandal involving the New Orleans Saints in which the NFL said players received money for hits that injured opponents.

Even increased penalties won't be enough to eradicate the risk of further incidents like the two in the past week, Rosner said.

"The NFL is being as aggressive as it can to police their players," Rosner said. "But sometimes individuals do things that can't be legislated for, no matter how scrupulous the league is."

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