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Goodell should bid farewell

Posted by Eric Fisher On September 10

Fisher column logo2The Ray Rice situation is, to put it mildly, an embarrassment for the NFL.

And that was before the elevator video of the then-Ravens running back knocking out his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, last February at Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City was uncovered and released by TMZ.

And that was before Wednesday’s news, broken by Rob Maaddi of The Associated Press, that a law enforcement official sent the elevator videotape to the NFL in April, seemingly contradicting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s assertion that the NFL could not obtain the elevator videotape.

The NFL didn’t need to “obtain” the videotape. Apparently, it was sent to its headquarters.

Any way you slice and dice the information, the NFL looks bad. The only question is how bad.

In a best-case scenario, the NFL was willfully ignorant. NFL officials didn’t see the video because they didn’t want to see it. That gave NFL officials plausible deniability.

In a worst-case scenario, NFL executives, including Goodell, saw the videotape and swept it under the rug. (Or, perhaps, destroyed it in the same manner the Patriots’ SpyGate videotapes were destroyed.) In this scenario, the NFL would never have increased Rice’s punishment beyond a woefully inadequate two-game suspension – on Monday the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely – if the videotape hadn’t become public.

Having a best-case scenario for this incident is a bit of a misnomer. The “best case” is still incredibly damaging to the NFL’s reputation.

Even before Wednesday’s AP story, it seemed inconceivable that nobody from the NFL had seen the elevator videotape. The NFL said it asked for all videotapes and evidence pertinent to the incident, but never specifically asked for the elevator video.

Why not? Why didn’t it ask for the elevator video?

It was highly unlikely that Palmer, now Janay Rice, lost consciousness from an extreme sugar high. It would seem to be a no-brainer that the NFL would want to see that video as part of its investigation.

It’s fairly common knowledge that casinos have an extensive network of cameras. It’s not quite common knowledge, though, that the NFL has experienced law enforcement personnel as part of its security team. These aren’t the Keystone cops. They are trained professionals. Yet, we’re supposed to believe that the NFL never made a specific request for the elevator video.

Despite the argument in the preceding paragraph, let’s assume, as Goodell maintained during an interview Tuesday with CBS, that the NFL was rebuffed in its sincere attempts to get all relevant video from the Revel and law enforcement agencies. The video of Rice striking his fiancée, according to Wednesday’s AP report, was sent to the NFL offices by a law enforcement official five months ago.

The AP’s Maaddi reports that the law enforcement official played an April 9 voicemail from an NFL office number. A female voice confirmed the video had arrived, thanked the individual for sending it and said, “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

Unless the law enforcement source fabricated the story and created a fake voicemail, we know at least one person in the NFL office saw the videotape. Even if it’s suggested that the person confirming receipt of the video is a low-level employee, are we expected to believe this employee kept the video to herself and didn’t tell anyone else about it or play the tape for anyone else?

That assumption does more than strain the bounds of credibility. It decimates them.

Whether Goodell saw the video is rapidly becoming irrelevant. If people in his office shielded him – and other top league officials – from seeing the video, we need to question what kind of atmosphere and culture exists under his leadership.

It’s unlikely Goodell will be fired. He has continued to raise the profile of the NFL and makes billions of dollars for the team owners. People who have a stake in an entity making billions of dollars are unlikely to replace the man guiding the league to unimagined levels of prosperity.

That’s why Goodell should resign.

He shouldn’t resign because Ray Rice knocked out his fiancée with a brutal punch.

He shouldn’t resign because he initially only suspended Rice for two games, which wasn’t enough even if Goodell had only seen the widely viewed videotape of Rice dragging Palmer out of the elevator and not so gingerly trying to prevent her legs from blocking the elevator doors.

Goodell should resign because his office was, at best, negligent in investigating this incident. At worst, his office covered up the nature of Rice’s transgressions.

Goodell should resign because the owners won’t fire him.

There’s no plausible deniability for Goodell. If he claims he wasn’t closely involved with the investigation, the question would be: why not?

To say Goodell fumbled the Ray Rice situation would be a grossly inappropriate use of a sports metaphor to describe a very serious situation (which is analogous to President Obama comparing ISIS to a jayvee team that doesn’t become Kobe Bryant just because they’re wearing Lakers uniforms, but let’s not mix politics and international affairs with sports).

This explosive chapter of the Ray Rice debacle is only three days old. The more news that comes out, the worse it gets for the NFL.

During Tuesday’s interview with CBS, Goodell said, “We didn’t get this right. That’s my responsibility, and I’m accountable for that.”

If Goodell were truly accountable for the heinous mishandling of the Ray Rice domestic abuse incident, he would resign. Today.


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