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The NFL's self-inflicted black eye will take a long time to fade

Monday night came and went in our house and nary a National Football League play was watched. It’s not that we’re boycotting. In fact, this may be a bigger problem for the NFL and its tone-deaf commissioner, Roger Goodell.

We just didn’t care.

This is new. Usually the start of professional football season brings a sense of excitement and anticipation. We alter schedules to watch certain matchups, and in previous seasons we've been avid fantasy football players. But not this year. My wife and I watched a little football last weekend, flicked on the television for a few plays during the late game Sunday, and are heartened by our beloved Buffalo Bills’ 2-0 start to the season. Otherwise, we’ve been disengaged (as have others).

RELATED: The NFL's willful ignorance on domestic violence

The Ray Rice story plays into it, as do the other incidents of rich young athletes behaving badly, and thuggishly, from the Carolina Panthers' Greg Hardy, who is appealing a domestic violence conviction, to Adrian Peterson using a switch to beat his son. Then there are the revelations about the scope of brain injuries that players suffer during the course of their careers. Nearly one-third of them develop cognitive problems later in life, a problem the NFL has been painfully slow to acknowledge - and actively sought to keep under wraps. It's hard to cheer a sport that seems rotten at its core.

The NFL, which generally is no slouch at media manipulation and spin control, has been flailing around trying to find a strategy. CBS, which broadcast Thursday night's game, called a questionable audible and dropped a planned opener with a song by pop singer Rihanna, a domestic abuse victim (because she was a victim, she can't get national exposure during a football game?), and replaced it with a piece by announcer James Brown. So even the broadcast partners (read: networks making money off the games) are having trouble figuring this out.

Goodell has named a committee of four women to guide the NFL’s policy on domestic violence, which as the National Organization for Women says, is an insufficient start. It’s also troubling that the woman running the effort, Anna Isaacson, already was on staff as an NFL executive on communications and philanthropy, which suggests less of a culture-breaking effort by Goodell than a cosmetic one.

All of this comes against the backdrop of the NFL refusing to tackle the name controversy with the Washington Redskins. So we have a league resistant to getting rid of a racially offensive name, and that also has to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the Neanderthal cave when it comes to taking domestic violence seriously.

An argument can be made that the off-field behavior of professional athletes shouldn’t be connected with their jobs. But it's not a persuasive one. Most, if not all, have contract clauses making them susceptible to league discipline for moral infractions or behaviors that reflect badly on the league and its brands. So the link is there - it's a condition, in fact, of those obscene salaries they rake in.

But what if the negative effect is not only the result of the players' actions, but by the league’s actions? Or in these cases, slow action or lack of action? What's the remedy then? That's a question not for Goodell, but for the team owners who form the league's policies.

So, no, we’re not boycotting. We're just finding other things to do while we snicker at social media parodies such as the mockup of the CoverGirl campaign meant to sell cosmetics to female football fans by matching eye shadow to team colors – now with an added black eye on the model.

But there really isn’t anything to laugh about here. The real black eye is on the league. And it’s unclear how long it will take that particular bruise to heal.

Follow Scott Martelle on Twitter @smartelle. 

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