September 1, 2006. That was the day Roger Goodell took the reigns of the NFL and replaced Paul Tagliabue as Commissioner. His main goal was made clear from day one: to clean up the NFL and impose a fierce player conduct policy. He was known as the man who was here to “protect the shield.”
Goodell has since become a fine-bearing, suspension-levying authoritarian beast. He rules the NFL much like Drew Carey “judged” Who’s Line is It Anyway? with no rhyme or reason behind his judgements. It started in 2007 with Pacman Jones and has reached his all-time low Monday with the Ray Rice elevator video leak. It’s time for the NFL to reexamine their leadership.
Goodell’s tenure has been under scrutiny since his first days in the NFL. While he has taken strides in transforming the league to a player-safe (and less fun) league, he has missed the boat completely in his personal conduct policy. Drugs and goal post spikes have seemed to take precedence over things like murder and domestic violence. The way he has handled the Ray Rice situation has been inexcusable.
I am having a very hard time believing this shtik about not seeing the elevator video before hand. The NFL claims that all videos from Atlantic City casinos are handled by the New Jersey State Police. Due to this information, they did not contact the casino itself, and claim that NJ police would not relinquish the video to the NFL since the case was still under investigation. A lot of this simply does not make sense. Especially after TMZ was able to get their hands on the video Monday and air it to all of America.
When reports first hit of the Ray and Janay Rice domestic spat in Atlantic City, the NFL was deciding on what suspension to levy on a player that included taking at least a half a million dollars away from the culprit. It seems like a situation like this would merit the police to release the video and let the NFL make a sound and fair judgement. Instead, what is now being brought to light, is that the NFL acted without all of the evidence. Sounds a lot like what Goodell did in the Ben Roethlisberger case in 2010 when video went missing and testimony seemed a bit shady, if you ask me.
Yet, even still, Goodell seemed to set a precedent in that Big Ben case. The men of the National Football League would have to be respectful of women. Big Ben was initially suspended for six games with the lingering accusations of rape in a small town Georgia bar. Five years later, with Ray Rice and his then-fiance admitting to domestic violence, Rice received a two game suspension. This was shortly after Josh Gordon was suspended for a year for drugs and right before Jimmy Graham was fined $30,000 for having a little fun and slam dunking a football over a goal post after a touchdown. The same move Tony Gonzalez did over his nearly 20-year career was now drawing fines, and a woman beater was allowed to be ready for the NFL by week three.
Then, the video aired. And Goodell slipped again. The Baltimore Ravens, led by one of the better GMs in the NFL in Ozzie Newsome, did the right thing and terminated the contract of Ray Rice. This action occurred a half an hour before the NFL took any action. Thirty minutes later, Goodell and the Commissioner’s office suspended Ray Rice indefinitely. Why did the NFL take longer to react than the Ravens? It simply doesn’t seem right.
An even better question may be why does seeing a video of Ray Rice punching and spitting on his fiance merit an indefinite suspension when both Ray and Janay had already admitted that it happened? As Nomi the Greek said yesterday, none of this video surprised him. This is what we were told had happened. Was it because Rice and Janay lied to the public and in the face of the law and said that Janay struck first, an action the new video has completely disproved? The simple fact is that nothing has changed since Rice was originally suspended for two games up to his now indefinite suspension: Rice beat a woman.
This is the whole problem with Goodell and his regime. There is absolutely no consistency in his decisions. If seeing the video was the straw that broke the camel’s back, then the NFL should have originally suspended Rice indefinitely and waited for the video they claim they had never seen to pass definitive judgement. Think about all of the suspensions that Goodell has had to overturn because he acted without full disclosure. Big Ben’s original six game suspension was cut to four games. There are currently a lot of reports that Josh Gordon and Wes Welker may in fact be on the field sooner than Czar Goodell would like as both players suspensions may be lessened in the coming days. This is the same commissioner that suspended New Orleans players and coaches for a full season for targeting opposing players in full pads with intent to injure them, yet only suspended a woman beater for two games. Even more frightening is the fact that Pacman Jones was suspended for a year for his violent actions, yet Aaron Hernandez has yet to banned from the NFL for life.
Goodell’s suspensions are a lot like the Baseball Hall of Fame voting. There is simply no logic behind them. Sure, there are now rules going into place as far as specific lengths of suspensions are concerned, but they seemingly always come after another of Goodell’s blunder. I really liked Goodell as the next chosen one to take the NFL to new heights, and I think behind it all, he has the right idea. It appears, however, that he continues to prove he has no foresight or plan in place. He is a man of action with very little thought.
Does that mean Goodell should be fired immediately? I can’t say that. He has done a lot of good with the sport and the NFL has soared to new heights under his rule. As long as owners continue to see heaps of revenue coming in, they will be hesitant to call for the firing of the man making it all happen. Goodell and his lack of vision on the Ray Rice case has certainly put a black mark on the NFL for the time being. I just can’t wait to hear what Stephen A. Smith has to say about it.