The Shield has become a sham. America’s game has become America’s embarrassment. Credibility has been sacked, decency has been clotheslined, and a substitution needs to be made.
Roger Goodell needs to be gone, cut as quickly and coldly as one of his players, waived, whacked, dumped, bring in your playbook, clean out your locker, now.
For three days, the NFL commissioner has claimed he issued a stunningly light two-game suspension of the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice, accused of domestic violence, without anyone in his office ever seeing the infamous videotape of Rice knocking out his then-fiancee Janay Palmer.
It now appears that beyond being clueless, he may also have been lying. There now exists evidence his office actually received the tape five months ago. Goodell now looks like the sort of sleazy player he has long taken great pride in suspending, with a darkly ironic twist. The reckless bum who should be kicked out of the league for disgracing The Shield is him.
The evidence comes from an unidentified law enforcement official who told the Associated Press on Wednesday they sent a video recording to the NFL five months ago. The official even provided a 12-second voicemail confirmation from an NFL number in which a female is heard to thank the official for the recording and add, “You’re right. It’s terrible.”
The NFL denied this latest report, just as it denied several anonymously sourced stories in recent months with similar information. One report, from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, even contained someone who correctly detailed the recording’s contents, yet Goodell still went on a national news show this week to once again flatly deny that anyone in the league had seen it.
“We asked for a video, but we were never granted that opportunity,” Goodell told a reporter from CBS, which happens to be a partner in televising NFL games, including Thursday night’s game featuring the Ravens.
Enough, already. Goodell is running a different sort of fantasy football league here. There are a triple-option of potential reasons to fire him. He quite possibly saw the tape and ignored its contents to protect the league’s brand. He issued only a two-game suspension to protect the league’s owners from a domestic violence issue that is not a priority. Then, once the tape was released by TMZ, he may have lied about seeing the tape to protect himself.
Rice has since been cut by the Ravens and suspended by the NFL. Here’s hoping the NFL owners will find the strength to wield that same sort of hammer on the most powerful man in sports.
It’s not going to be easy. During the most profitable time in NFL history, these owners have not only been empowered by the $44-million-a-year Goodell, but enabled by him.
Domestic violence? Shrug. Two owners are currently suiting up players facing domestic violence charges, Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers and Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers. One of those owners, Carolina’s Jerry Richardson, was scheduled to receive a humanitarian award Wednesday night. His scheduled presenter, before an understandable last-minute cancellation, was Roger Goodell.
Concussions? Yawn. Goodell has long been complicit in a campaign of lies and disinformation about their effects in hopes of saving his owners’ money and limiting liability. The scandal is so large that it led to both a book and accompanying PBS documentary under the title, “League of Denial.”
Minority hiring? Sigh. Even though the owners embarrassingly require a “Rooney Rule” to force them to interview minority candidates, there were no minority hires for eight head coaching vacancies in 2013. Goodell called it “unacceptable,” yet there were no penalties assessed. A year later, owners hired only two minorities for seven open spots.
Videotape cover-up? This isn’t even the first time owners have happily watched Goodell’s office tamper with evidence that would make the league look bad. It was Goodell who also supervised the destroying of the infamous Spygate notes and tapes in 2007, leaving folks to wonder whether his punishment of the New England Patriots — hefty fines and a first-round draft pick — had been strong enough.
Owners loved him for protecting them then. But they need to realize he is not protecting them now, but leaving them vulnerable to a loss of valuable sponsor and government support, not to mention a further loss of grass-root fan support. They need to look at their wives and daughters and wonder how they can support a commissioner involved in a domestic violence whitewash.
After spending eight years using every possible trick to “protect the shield” — his favorite phrase — Goodell must now be pulled out from behind it, exposed for the damage he caused it, and dragged away without it.