Monday morning September 8, the world was buzzing about the TMZ Sports video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancé unconscious in an elevator. It was going viral on the Internet, and before noon the disturbing video was airing on national television shows. Less than an hour later, the Ravens terminated Rice’s contract, and a couple hours after that, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Rice was indefinitely suspended from the league.
But why did it take until a week into the regular season for this to happen? The incident occurred in February of this year. By the end of spring, Rice was admitted into a pre-trial program and would avoid prosecution. By mid-summer, Goodell met with Rice and considered his punishment. In late July, it was announced that he would be suspended for the first two games of the season. Rice, a stocky 206-pound professional football player, beat a woman unconscious and dragged her body out of an elevator. Wes Welker was suspended for double the amount of time that Rice was initially given, for testing positive for amphetamines. Welker’s violation is no doubt unacceptable, but isn’t woman-beating a more serious crime?
This leads to a very unsettling inference; Roger Goodell and the NFL did not indefinitely suspend Ray Rice because he punched a woman, they punished Ray Rice because that video got out. The video of Ray Rice dragging his fiancé’s limp body from the elevator was floating around the Internet all summer, it wasn’t like the video of what happened inside the elevator was the first concrete evidence. And then Goodell went on to claim that the NFL had no access to that video, and that they reached out repeatedly to various police departments and casino security trying to obtain the video. Does he think we’re stupid? He did not convince many people with that statement, and then two days later on Wednesday afternoon a law enforcement official told AP that they did in fact send a copy of the video to the NFL. It was then confirmed on a voicemail that an NFL representative did receive the tape. Goodell simply turned the other cheek, and that is unforgivable.
His handling of this situation illustrated that he is not a competent commissioner. Only after being scrutinized for his weak two-game suspension sentence for Rice, Goodell implemented a policy that set standards for domestic abuse cases. The policy states that a first-time offender will be suspended six games, and a repeat offender will be indefinitely suspended from the league (though a repeat offender is allowed to appeal for reinstatement after a year). One can assume that this policy was not created from Goodell’s own values, but to stop the intense criticism he was receiving for the initial two-game suspension.
Yet, on Monday when the video was released, and once again the public forced him into action, Goodell did not stay consistent with his policy. He punished Rice as a repeat offender according to his own policy created a couple weeks prior. Now, I am not saying that Rice should only be suspended for six games. I firmly believe that he should be banned from the NFL because of all of the kids that look up to the players as role models. He is not a role model by any means. I simply want to point out the unprofessional manner in which the commissioner went about this situation. He did not implement a harsh enough policy from the get-go, and when he attempted to, he discredited himself and the NFL immensely by being inconsistent with the new policy. He has no idea how to handle the situation, so he is letting the masses control the situation, which is a recipe for chaos.
Roger Goodell has lost his touch, and it is time for him to resign. The NFL commissioner is the face of the organization and is responsible for maintaining a solid reputation for the league. As of now, the league and its commissioner are engulfed in a shadow of shame. As John Gruden said on Monday Night Football this week, “There is no place in the NFL or society for it [domestic abuse].” And it took Roger Goodell 7 months to figure that out.
Collegian Assistant Sports Editor Zac Koch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zactkoch