So many villains, but mostly Goodell

Ray Rice and the Ravens / Photo: Keith Allison, used under Flickr Creative Commons license
Ray Rice and the Ravens / Photo: Keith Allison, used under Flickr Creative Commons license

MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., September 12, 2014 — Unless you have been vacationing in Fiji, you already know a lot about the Ray Rice debacle. One unanswered question is how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t have the time to watch the whole video of Rice’s assault on his then-girlfriend Janay Palmer before he made the original decision to suspend Rice for only two games.

Goodell probably has things to do that are more important to his millionaire bosses than watch videos. His $15 million compensation is not enough for him to also have to worry about the pesky public and the players. He has become famous for extracting extremely high penalties from players who violate the rules.

This is all happening within the framework of a special tax organization like the NFL. That’s right; this is an organization that gets special tax treatment and makes so much money that it can pay its commissioner a $15 million salary. One has to wonder how much they would pay him if it was a fully taxed organization.

For those who just got back from Fiji, here is the sequence of events as we know them:

Rice and his (now) wife, Janay Palmer, were at a resort and got into an altercation;

  1. Rice dragged Palmer from an elevator and roughly dropped her in the middle of a hall way; the incident was caught on video;
  2. The NFL investigated the episode and suspended Rice for two games. This is where the narrative varies depending on the source;
    1. Rice told the press that he told Goodell that he had hit Palmer and knocked her out;
    2. Goodell says Ray’s account was ambiguous.
  3. Another video emerged, this one showing what happened in the elevator. Palmer appears to have lunged at Rice, who appears to have hit her with his fist and knocked her out;
  4. Goodell suspends Rice from football indefinitely;
  5. Contrary to the NFL (Goodell’s) account, there is some evidence that it received the complete video;
  6. Goodell states that he only saw part of the video, after first saying that the NFL hadn’t received it;
  7. A media frenzy ensues. Ray Rice is enemy number one and almost everyone thinks that the loss of his livelihood is not enough.

So here are the protagonist of this tragedy: a millionaire athlete who can’t keep his fist in his pocket and punches his soon to be wife, and a millionaire NFL commissioner first lies and then tells us that he didn’t have the time to watch the complete video. While the former is a wife beater without a job, the second is happily earning $15 million per year and living a life that even Condoleezza Rice would envy.

A sideline event is the game played last night in Baltimore. Reporters were fascinated with the number of people wearing Rice’s number 27 jersey, apparently most of them women. One said to an interviewer that she believes that the Rices should be left alone and that the whole thing is a private issue.

If someone wrote this as a novel, it wouldn’t be credible. This episode makes so many comments on our society, each one more amazing than the last.

You have your choice of villains. First, a game and its media promoters that make players larger than life to the point that they start believing it. Second, a player who in a moment of rage beats his wife unconscious. Third, an organization that is at least the accomplice in hiding/minimizing the crime and then of overreaction, but only because the truth is revealed. And finally, a segment of the public that believes that domestic abuse is something that should be handled by the abuser and the abused.

It is interesting to consider how differently people reacted to the scene in the elevator as compared with the original video of a limp Janay Palmer being pushed around the floor like a sack of potatoes. Did anyone really think that she was just passed out from drinking? We all looked the other way and continued with our lives, and so did the media.

Mr. Goodell, you are guilty of at least very poor judgment. I am sure you have a golden parachute.

Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist, is (sorry to say) an addict to football and part of the problem. He is on Twitter (@chibcharus), Google+ and Facebook (Mario Salazar).


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  • irene

    I am surprised more folks have not commented on the flip flop handlingbof this affair. Seems it should be more anticipated that some players will commit bad acts at certain times and that there should be guidelines. Is the NFL really a not for profit tax beneficiary? Yet poor folks who work can qualify for federal aid? Oh something really wrong here.