Roger Goodell’s Credibility Problem

The Ray Rice fiasco is leaving a gaping hole in NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s credibility. First, he suspended Rice for two games, the same month the league handed down punishments ranging from 3 to 8 times that amount for recreational drug use. The NFL then circled the wagons around the decision and made themselves look criminally absurd in the process. Then, Goodell admitted that he had mishandled Rice’s situation and announced a tough, zero-tolerance policy for players who commit domestic abuse. “I didn’t get it right,” he confessed. Good on him, we said.

Today, video released showing…well, showing exactly what we were told happened. The video of Rice viciously hitting his fiance unconscious is a chilling visual experience, but it’s not actually news. What happened in the video is precisely the charge that Rice was given in criminal court, the one he entered a pretrial program for and avoided jail time. There is zero substantive difference between what we knew Rice did back in July and what we know he did now. The only difference is that Rice’s violence can be watched online.

And that, in the end, is what Goodell really doesn’t want:

The Baltimore Ravens terminated running back Ray Rice’s contract on Monday, hours after TMZ Sports released a video showing him punching his then-fiancée in the face in an Atlantic City hotel elevator in February.

Minutes later, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that, based on the latest video evidence now available, Rice is suspended indefinitely from playing in the league. His two-game suspension for assaulting Janay Palmer was scheduled to end Friday.

The Ravens are well within their moral and contractual rights to terminate Rice. They don’t want to be associated with him or this situation. Good for them. Goodell, however, is a different case entirely. He is making Rice pay not just for what he did but what Goodell didn’t do. The league can plead all they want that they never saw the video until today (which I HIGHLY doubt is true). In the end, what does that matter? Ray Rice did exactly what Roger Goodell and the NFL front office punished him for. The only difference between then and now is that what he is being punished for is public viewing.

This is completely asinine. It’s one thing to be tone-deaf and morally pitiful on domestic abuse. It’s quite another thing to scramble to cover the egg on your face by pushing human shields in front of you. Ray Rice is not being punished today for what he did. That already happened, shameful as it was. He is being punished for the moral blindness exhibited by Goodell and the league in the first place.

Look at what Goodell told Rice in his letter telling the player about the two game suspension:

“I believe that you are sincere in your desire to learn from this matter and move forward toward a healthy relationship and successful career,” Goodell wrote to Rice. “I am now focused on your actions and expect you to demonstrate by those actions that you are prepared to fulfill those expectations.”

“I am now focused on your actions.” Which actions? Has that stopped being true? If so, how? Goodell is showing a total lack of integrity here. In the letter, he explains to Rice that the league is satisfied with Rice’s commitment to not abuse women again. Today, the league is no longer satisfied. Why? Because….well, nothing’s changed. Because we all know what Rice did, we just weren’t able to watch it until.

Shame on Roger Goodell. Shame on the NFL. Shame on anyone whose moral indignation goes only as far as a video goes viral. Shame on anyone who changes the rules of the game in order to cover their failures. I’m not saying Ray Rice deserves to play in the NFL. What I am saying is that Roger Goodell doesn’t deserve to get away with being two-faced.



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