Running Back and Hiding – Two Things Roger Goodell & Ray Rice Have In Common

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If only NFL commissioner Roger Goodell emphasized and enforced safety OFF the field as critically as he does with players ON it, we wouldn’t have this problem. Sadly, however, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice likely would have been punished MORE SEVERLY by the NFL had he taken the same swing on a 300-pound defensive lineman during an NFL game, as opposed to his wife in a casino elevator. This extremely disconcerting, but probably accurate concept speaks to remind everyone just how out of whack commissioner Goodell’s priorities have truly become.

Goodell continues to stand by his absurdly weak claim that the NFL had never seen the video of Rice abusing his wife until it was released by TMZ yesterday. As if we are supposed to believe that the National Football League couldn’t get a hold of a tape from an Atlantic City casino elevator, but TMZ could…

Not only do I not buy this pathetic excuse – if not outright lie – for one millisecond, the idea attempts to mask a much more deeply disturbing concern. That is, even if Goodell were telling the truth and NFL executives had never seen the footage, it’s arguably MORE extremely disappointing that the league didn’t make a better effort to acquire a video that was evidently easily accessible.

The complete lack of effort in gathering evidence only adds to the fact that the league refused to hand Rice an adequate punishment until a looming public relations nightmare ultimately forced their hand. While it’s a certainty that mass communications, specifically public relations, controls our society today, it’s nevertheless pitiful that video coverage of such a horrific crime has to be leaked to the public before the NFL decides to take sufficient action on an issue it had known about months beforehand.

The NFL and Goodell simply look foolish suspending Rice not only AFTER the video was released to the mass media, but AFTER the Baltimore Ravens had already cut him! As if another team would have signed him anyway (there’s no chance in hell) Goodell’s so-called “better late than never” suspension of Rice is merely a piss-poor attempt to be the “good guys” here.

Goodell acts as if he is the harsh disciplinarian in this case, banning Rice from football indefinitely. But in reality, Goodell in this case is more like the best friend of the high school bully who beat up a helpless victim. And when questioned by authorities, he attempted to sweep the bully’s actions under the rug, rather than take the opportunity to address the severity of the matter.

Let’s not forget that just a few weeks ago, Goodell called it a day after handing Rice a slap-on-the-wrist 2-game suspension for the very same act he’s now kicking Rice out of the league for.

Rice’s 2-game “time out,” if you will, of course comes from the same commissioner that fines players collectively for millions of dollars each week for hard (but often legal) hits during games. This is the same guy who suspends a player FOUR games (which is DOUBLE the amount Rice got for physically abusing his wife) for their first substance abuse infraction… ie taking one tablet of Adderall or Viagra, or smoking marijuana one time, regardless of whether they are arrested by the police like Rice was.

Even if you disregard the mindless, inconsistent and often draconian punishment standards in today’s NFL, one seemingly can’t ignore an obvious hypocrisy in terms of accountability standards.

If players are rightfully held responsible for their mistakes, then coaches and league officials should be as well. At least, that’s what Goodell told Sean Payton, when he suspended the Saints’ coach for a full year without pay (amounting to $7.5 million lost) – and imposed various additional team-based penalties – all for overseeing a bounty program which gave the Saints zero competitive advantage on the field. Yet, here Goodell won’t hold himself accountable for failing and refusing to investigate and take responsibility for a complete sham of a punishment from one of his player’s deplorable actions.

Goodell is constantly preaching that players will be disciplined if they do anything that negatively portrays “the shield” of the National Football League. But is Goodell’s total mishandling of this situation not the very definition of what he disciplines players for? Certainly, the NFL’s shield has been tarnished; but ironically, I’d argue the league’s reputation is harmed less by Rice’s awful mistake and more so by Roger Goodell’s lax, “get out of jail free” punishment of such conduct.

Goodell admitted weeks ago he was too generous with Rice’s suspension, “getting it wrong.” He vowed to correct the issue in the future. But Rice has done just the same, as he’s owned up to his mistake and apologized a trillion times too. While Rice absolutely deserves to be kicked out of the league for his severe wrongdoings, it seems unfair that the man who was responsible for originally botching the punishment, suspending Rice for two football measly games, ultimately comes away unscathed when it is abundantly clear that he knew OR SHOULD HAVE KNOWN the extent of the abuse.

The fact of the matter is that Goodell makes upwards of $40 million a year to not have these screw-ups.

The idea that Rice would have gotten away with a mere 2-game suspension – and still made his $4 million base salary for playing in the other 14 games this season – is a disgrace to American sports. And now Rice is only getting a more rigorous punishment because the video footage that was released to the public apparently “changed things.”

Now, I have not seen the video, nor do I ever want to. NO ONE, regardless of whether they are female or male, should be striking their partner, or really anyone else for that matter. It’s disgusting, and I don’t think it’s even necessary to watch the footage.

But Let me ask you something, NFL: what did you think domestic violence looked like? What did you expect to see? Rice and his fiancé playing “patti-cake” on the elevator? Don’t be naive.

Consider that Browns’ wide receiver Josh Gordon could be serving a YEAR-LONG suspension for failing having 1 nanogram per millimeter too much of trace marijuana in his urine sample on his 70th drug test in the last two years… and Ray Rice’s brutal domestic abuse of a woman results in a penalty only one eighth (1/8) as harsh.

What kind of message does that send to children and teen athletes who idolize these so-called “heroes”? What does that portray to the other players in the league with wives and girlfriends? Most importantly, what about the message it sends to women?

Predictably, I’ve only heard PR statements from the Baltimore Ravens’ team officials and their players, Rice’s former teammates, who were both repulsed by the video and supportive in hopes Rice would get the help he needs.

But Goodell has been strangely silent on the matter, like a little schoolboy ducking into a corner, trying to avoid being seen after he breaks a classroom rule. There’s no denying Ray Rice had a complete lapse in judgment and made an unconscionable mistake. But Roger Goodell’s completely ignorant ruling to let Rice’s domestic abuse slide until a public relations crisis forced to take action is arguably as heinous, all things considered.

Seeing as Ray Rice would have never played football again anyway prior to his suspension (after the Ravens rightfully released him), and based on the wide-ranging negative impact Goodell’s lacking punishment had, as well as taking into account his supreme leadership role as commissioner of the NFL, I truly believe that if anyone in this atrocious situation should have been suspended… it was Roger Goodell himself.

Accordingly, Goodell needs to take a stand, at the very minimum, for the sake of the millions of women who both are rightfully offended and insulted, along with those who are wrongfully domestically abused.

Goodell should try to rectify Ray Rice’s wrongdoing by taking responsibility for his own despicable error…

The commissioner should own up to his mistake and punish himself.

*Photo Credit = Rob Carr, Getty Images


Categories: NFL Feature Stories

1 reply »

  1. Nice article, Nick