NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has to go

Yesterday, the AP reported that contrary to claims from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, law enforcement did in fact share with NFL officials video footage of (now former) Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice brutally knocking unconscious, then dragging, his then-fiancée and now-wife, Janay, from an Atlantic City elevator on April 9th.

The video is graphic, but necessary, to fully appreciate how horrific this story truly is.

ray-rice-1-featured

Prior to Monday, when TMZ published video of the violence, Rice’s actions had only led him to be suspended for two games, causing a public backlash that led the league to make its domestic violence policies stricter.

Of course, prior to Monday, the only available video of the incident was shot outside of the elevator, showing what happened after Janay was already unconscious. In the original video, you see Rice dragging his fiancée from the elevator.

Courtesy of the Daily Mail.

Courtesy of the Daily Mail.

Almost immediately after the second video from inside the elevator emerged, the league suspended, Rice and the Baltimore Ravens terminated his contract.

 

ray-rice-2The latest news, that the NFL had the more-damning elevator footage months ago, and either ignored it or did not consider it serious enough to merit a harsher suspension, raises serious questions.

The first piece of evidence against Ray Rice – video showing him dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator like a sack of potatoes – coupled with his admission that he struck her, told us everything that happened in that elevator. The league shouldn’t have needed video footage of the actual punch to know that it happened, that it was awful, and that a two-game suspension (which is all Rice originally got for beating his fiancée unconscious) wasn’t even close to enough.

Instead, as satirized by The Onion, on Monday the NFL announced a “New Zero-Tolerance Policy on Videotaped Domestic Violence.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Tuesday that the league has adopted a new zero-tolerance policy toward all videotaped domestic abuse. “We hold our players to the highest standards both as professional athletes and as people, so any violence toward women that is recorded, authenticated, and then publicly distributed will be met with an automatic suspension and fine,” said Goodell…

Goodell went on to clarify that in such cases, the NFL will cooperate fully with local authorities as soon as the league can no longer prevent incriminating evidence from being leaked to the media.

But that didn’t stop NFL commissioner Roger Goodell from claiming yesterday: “We (the NFL) assumed that there was a video. We asked for video. But we were never granted that opportunity.”

Except they were granted that opportunity. Months ago. This statement alone, setting aside everything else Goodell has done to mishandle this situation, should be enough to get him fired.

First off, Goodell’s statement is opaque at best and outright false at worst. While the league may have asked local law enforcement for the video, the casino where the incident took place said that they were never contacted by the league for the video, and that they would have gladly handed provided it if asked. This is significant because, in the context of a criminal investigation, the police aren’t allowed to hand out evidence, and the NFL knows this perfectly well. In choosing to ask the police and not the casino for additional evidence — when the league already assumed the casino had video evidence — the NFL, and by extension Goodell, were being willfully ignorant.

Every action the NFL has taken with respect to this issue has, unsurprisingly, suggested that they are acting out of a purely image-based interest, which highlights what is perhaps Goodell’s biggest mistake: If you assume that a video exists, how can you do anything other than act based on what’s definitely on that video, and suspend Rice indefinitely from the get-go? And despite all of Goodell’s claims to have been strictly adhering to league policy regarding Rice’s suspension in this case, this is a commissioner who’s made a habit of insisting that he can exercise discretion – in either direction – concerning player discipline.

From a strictly business perspective, knowing only what we all knew last week, before the even-more incriminating video went public, Goodell could have, and should have, suspended Rice indefinitely. He didn’t. This will cost the NFL a lot of money, as well it should.

Ray Rice’s fate has been sealed for months. The moment he hit his fiancée, his NFL season, and possibly career, was over. While seeing the video of the actual punch is horrid, it shouldn’t change anyone’s opinion as to what happened and what should have been done about it; the facts of the case remain exactly the same. We shouldn’t have to see video of a woman being knocked out in order to exact punishment from someone who has already admitted to the crime.

Yet, as the Onion noted, the only reason the Ravens fired, and the NFL suspended, Ray Rice is because the second video leaked, thus leaving them no choice.

The person we really should be thinking less of as a result of all of this – the person who really deserves to pay for doing the least that was asked of him, hoping the issue would go away so that Ray Rice could keep scoring touchdowns and making money – is NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

At the time of this writing, 62 percent of 392,000 respondents to an ESPN SportsNation poll asking whether or not Roger Goodell should resign or be fired had answered in the affirmative.

Count me as one of them.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • BarbaraJFitzgerald

    My Uncle Benjamin got a stunning green Porsche Cayenne Diesel only from working off a macbook… see this googlepay.com

  • KingCranky

    Just how did Goodell and the rest of the NFL brain trust think Janay Rice ended up unconscious in that elevator, especially when the league knew there was video from inside the elevator itself?

    That Goodell knew of the existence of such a recording, but still issued a trifling “penalty” without, allegedly, having seen it is pure self-inflicted stupidity, as the Commissioner had to know that video would eventually be made public, ensuring even more interest for an issue that was losing public attention.

    Absolutely no sympathy for Goodell or anyone else in the NFL involved in this fiasco.

  • HeartlandLiberal

    Glad to see this escaped held for moderation purgatory, where it sat for quite a while. Out of curiosity, what triggered it being held for moderation? 1) two URLs? or 2) the fact it was edited after first being posted? Just curious, since I don’t see anything in the language that might have triggered any “language” filters. Given the graphic nature of the reported acts of domestic abuse John reported on so well in this post, that would be sort of ironic.

    FWIW, many former players, many of them ground breaking and historic figures, like George Taliaferro, have been leaders for years in trying to get not just the NFL, but college football, to address the issue. Most major programs at college level now have helmets rigged with electronics that report back to a server sitting in the stadium, and reporting whether any hit they have taken is reason enough to pull them out for evaluation for possible testing. We installed this service at the division one school where I was IT Director for Computing Services for the last 15 years of my career, before retiring three and half years ago. In addition, all the student athletes do evaluation testing with computer programs at the beginning of the year, and are retested throughout the year, to catch any evidence of cognitive impairment due to the physical nature of their sport.

    These are good things, and the NFL should be encouraging, not resisting them.

    Which could also be said about the domestic violence issues.

    I am sure everyone has seen The Onion satire piece by now if they read John’s article here. Again, hard to tell reality from satire anymore today.

  • The sad part is, if you look at the amount in fines assessed against players, without actually doing anything to address the underlying problems, the fines themselves almost seem like just another revenue stream for some teams. To the tune of millions of dollars a year.

  • emjayay

    What escapes people a bit because of “sports” like they remember from high school or something is that the NFL and others are BUSINESSES. And (here I go again) the one and only goal of any business is maximizing profits. They are not about morality, or justice, or sportsmanship, or anything else. Like any business, if they pretend to be any of those things or even do something in those areas it is for just one single solitary thing: maximizing profit. That’s why domestic violence or steroids or anything else do not matter one bit until the public knows about them. And if the public doesn’t care and buys tickets and merchandise anyway, it still doesn’t matter one bit.

    Just ask Adam Smith.

  • lynchie

    It is all about controlling the message and moving forward. Have to fire a bunch of people who are in their 60’s do it, have an underling do the dirty work and never mention the people who were axed. Goddell thought he could get away with a slap on the wrist for Rice and move on to keep the bucks flowing. Now he has lost control of the message but my guess he will ignore any pressure to resign after all he is making billions for the team owners and professional sports is after all about making money. Intersting comment from the owner of the Detroit red wings during the most recent lock out of the players. He compared the players to cattle and in fact refered to them as his cattle.

    http://prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com/2012/09/22/nhl-fines-red-wings-for-devellanos-cattle-comment/

    The league fined him but never divulged what the fine was and everyone moved forward. Nothing to see here, keep moving

  • emjayay

    Well, I think Jon Stewart showed some of this.

  • Indigo

    I smell a trickle down effect from the Harvard School of Business. This is what they’re really teaching beyond the formalities of classroom lectures.

  • lynchie

    Sounds like Chris Brown knocking Rihanna around, they got back together and he did it again. Rice’s wife better have her phone handy at all times because his lost job and the millions that go with it he will hold her responsible.

  • lynchie

    Had an issue like this with a CEO of a company i worked for. 5 prospective sales reps were caught cheating on their training exams. I reported it and it was swept under the rug.

  • lynchie

    I agree just a ripple in the flow of money. No doubt they will find someone at the NFL to take the fall for having the video and doing nothing (though that is hardly credible, because I can not imagine receiving the video and never looking at it). Be ironic if a female takes the fall.
    Goddel makes $30 or $40 million a year. Don’t forget they operate all the teams as non profits because they got Congress to give them an exemption. The american public seem split on who is at fault more and more comments blame Rice’s wife for spitting on him. Yeah the old joke goes that wife beating in New Jersey is on the rise…….they just won’t listen.

  • In the short term, this costs in terms of endorsements, jersey sales (Rice’s and the Ravens in general – small, but not insignificant), viewership, etc. Not to mention legal fees. In the long term, this has put a huge dent in the league’s overall reputation, which makes their TV deals slightly-less-huge.

    There’s a reason they acted as quickly as they did once the new video came out, even though it didn’t change any of the events in question. As cynical as they come off for reacting so differently to the in-elevator video, it’s probably because they thought (rightly? hard to say) that fans would have a similarly disproportionate reaction.

  • Mike F

    “…adopted a new zero-tolerance policy toward all videotaped domestic abuse…”

    Translation of NFL MarketingPRopaganda tool and commissioner Roger Goodell:

    Guys, forfucksake, keep it behind closed doors, in private. And whatever you do, make sure there are no cameras about. I mean really, if ya’ gotta beat your woman, ya’ gotta beat your woman, just don’t let the rest of the world know about it.

  • No, you’re correct: Given it was caught on surveillance video, the victim might not have to press charges. However, from a prosecution perspective, it’s difficult to get a conviction when the victim is saying nothing happened.

  • perljammer

    I wonder about the “refuse to press charges” part of this. Normally in cases of domestic violence, either the victim presses charges, or the aggressor goes free; this is because there aren’t any 3rd party witnesses. In this particular case, the assault was caught on video, so the victim may not be required to press charges or be willing to testify. I would say that if the DA doesn’t press charges, then he/she is as complicit as Goodall. What do you think?

  • Yeah, I wasn’t sure what Jon meant by that either. I’ll ask him to weigh in.

  • Why I published a video of Ray Rice beating his fiancée unconscious, and how effective activism actually works.

    http://americablog.com/2014/09/man-called-ray-rice.html

  • goulo

    Good article (and funny spot-on Onion link), but I’m unsure of one thing:

    “This will cost the NFL a lot of money, as well it should.”

    Is there actually any reason to think that this will cost the NFL a lot of money? I cynically see no reason to think it won’t be business as usual. It’s not as if hordes of football fans are going to suddenly stop watching football or buying team merchandise etc over this. Am I missing something?

  • Indigo

    Altogether too many administrators in my experience have disguised incompetence or, more accurately, indifference with fashionable business slogans. The one that most annoyed me before I retired from university professoring (there’s so much more involved than classroom teaching) was the refusal of our top administrators to take accountability for any issue that arose with complications such as student cheating or date rape or stealing in the dorms and the like. Our administrators grew indignant when matters like that were brought to their attention. “Don’t bring me problems! Bring me solutions!” they chorused all too often, as if only “solutions” dare cross their polished, empty desks.

    And therefore yes, Goodell should have enough sense to resign. Quickly. If he can’t do that within the week, then the board should have enough sense to fire him. He’s just another handsome iceberg, administrative eye-candy that soothes the upper-middle and entirely replaceable. So there’s the solution: get rid of the iceberg and put in another iceberg, one that’s smart enough to monitor the off-color action among all those naughty millionaire ball-players.

  • It honestly wouldn’t surprise me.

  • perljammer

    One issue I haven’t seen much if any discussion of: Rice actually stands a pretty fair chance of prevailing in an “unfair labor practices” lawsuit because of the disparity between how his case is being handled and how past, similar cases have been handled. 85 NFL players have been arrested for domestic violence since 2000, and as far as I know, none of them have resulted in punishment on a scale even close to Rice’s. Note, I am not saying he doesn’t deserve what he got; he definitely deserves that and maybe more.

  • The NFL management didn’t give a flying rat’s ass that one of their players had knocked a woman unconscious.

    Their only problem with it was the public release of the video showing it happening and the aftermath. You’re right Jon: It shouldn’t have taken the release of the additional footage. But Goodell’s reaction makes it abundantly clear that’s the only thing he and the NFL cared about, the public existence of the video footage and not what it depicted — which as the AP reported, they KNEW about and had seen, contrary to claims.

    The one for whom I have real pity is Janay Rice (nee Palmer). Like most battered spouses, I’m sure she believes Ray Rice won’t hit her again, especially if she does everything in her power to make sure she doesn’t make him angry with her. Probably thinks she’ll be scoring all kinds of brownie points with him by “standing by her man” in those news conferences and in refusing to file assault charges.

    This is why the initial mere two game suspension and, instead of charges, Rice was to have been diverted into a domestic abuse and anger management program, one which upon completion would’ve purged any mention of being arrested from his record.

    What Janay doesn’t realize is now, in the back of Ray Rice’s mind, will be stewing the (incorrect) notion that he lost his lucrative football career because of her. Because, in his mind, she provoked him by arguing with and disrespecting him. I grew up in an abusive household, and trust me, Ray Rice will be replaying his own mental video over and over and over — and each time, it will change a little, until it doesn’t resemble what happened at all. A punch becomes a shove, then becomes she tripped, then becomes ‘she threw herself at that railing and was faking being unconscious.’ At some point, he’ll start to think she did it on purpose where she knew there’d be cameras, because that’s how abusers think. For the abuser, the person they abuse makes them do it.

    These situations never end well for the women involved.

  • I wish someone would add a laugh-track and FOX audio (ala “Natural Born Killers”): “‘The message is, when you’re in an elevator, there’s a camera!’; ‘I think the message is, take the stairs!’; ‘the anti-testicular police are coming out and just taking this guy’s balls and ripping them off!'”

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