Maybe the naysayers don’t have it completely wrong. Maybe there is something to be said about the dangers of getting swept up in every gust of opinion that blows its way across the national stage. Perhaps it’s true that bowing to public pressure isn’t always the best course of action, and a mob mentality shouldn’t decide whether or not people should get to keep their jobs.
However, in the case of Roger Goodell, the embattled commissioner of the National Football League (NFL), it’s clear that the public outcry is well founded. Say what you will about the 24/7 news cycle outrage machine, but it certainly has this one right.
Goodell suspended Ray Rice, running back for the Baltimore Ravens, for two games after Rice was charged with aggravated assault for knocking his then-fiancée unconscious. After TMZ leaked the graphic video that depicted exactly what that domestic violence looked like, Goodell responded to the enormous public backlash by suspending Rice indefinitely.
Goodell did his best to act like he was just as shocked as everyone else to see what really happened in that elevator, but the truth is, the release of that video showed him absolutely nothing he didn’t know before deciding to suspend Rice for only two games.
Goodell previously tried to frame the incident as one where both parties were at fault. After making the unbelievably stupid decision to interview Janay with Ray in the room – sure, why wouldn’t she be honest when the man who hit her is sitting right there – Goodell concluded it was more or less a mutual fight. Yes, Ray decided to put a ring on it and marry Janay, but their marriage after the incident has no bearing on the nature of their confrontation.
After Goodell categorically denied that the NFL had seen the tape before the leak, several reporters with trusted sources in the league were stuck wondering why they were told the NFL had access to the elevator tape back in July, and then the AP released a recording of someone in the NFL acknowledging receipt of the video on a voicemail. Presumably, because he was stuck, all Goodell did was continue to say no one to his knowledge had seen it again and again.
He is almost certainly lying about that, but here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter if he saw the tape or not. He did, but let’s indulge his fantasy and pretend he didn’t. So, what information did he have at his disposal when he decided to suspend Rice for only two games?
He had the first video that showed Rice dragging Janay’s unconscious body out of the elevator. More importantly, he had a police report that fits perfectly with the events of the video. He had the knowledge that the police dropped the bogus charges against Janay and upgraded those against Ray after they watched that video. The outrage here is not only warranted; it’s a little late.
It’s better late than never, though, because now it seems to be building enough to hit the NFL in the only place they really care about: their wallet. CoverGirl’s ill-timed partnership with the NFL took off for reasons they definitely weren’t hoping for as people tweeted photoshopped versions of CoverGirl’s “Game Face” promotion. The image of a Ravens fan was altered to turn her purple makeup into a black eye; a brutal reminder of domestic violence. The images were tweeted out with references to a CoverGirl boycott, and that is exactly the kind of thing that can make sponsors, and the NFL, nervous.
The only people who can fire Goodell are the team owners. The only thing the team owners care about is if their investments in the league are still profitable. Goodell is popular with these owners, because in his tenure, the league has been very profitable – regardless of whether that was because of, or in spite of, him. They will vote to remove him if that profitability changes, and that will only happen if sponsors start dropping. A boycott and a storm of negative press just might make that happen.
Goodell is a liar and a protector of abusers. He has no business running the country’s biggest sports league and must go.