The NFL, Ray Rice And Roger Goodell

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Ray Rice (left) and Roger Goodell (right). (Handout/Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Ray Rice (left) and Roger Goodell (right). (Handout/Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Ray Rice remains suspended from the NFL, this time indefinitely. The Baltimore Ravens, his former employer, have dropped Rice from their roster. These developments followed the release of a video on Monday that shows Rice punching his then-fiancée-now-wife in an elevator in Atlantic City last February.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged again this week that he - and perhaps somebody else - was wrong to initially suspend Ray Rice for only two games.

[sidebar title="'This Is How Empires Fall'" width="630" align="right"] Sports On Earth's Will Leitch tells Bill Littlefield why the NFL's current crisis is different from those that have come before. [/sidebar]

“We didn't get this right, and that's my responsibility, and I'm accountable for that,” Goodell said.

The commissioner also said he did not see that video until Monday, although the Associated Press has reported that somebody in the NFL's office acknowledged receiving the tape last April. Goodell has also said that when he interviewed Rice and his wife in June, when he had seen an earlier video showing Rice dragging his unconscious then-fiancée from the elevator, he didn't know what had happened in the elevator.

On Friday, ESPN reported that Rice had told Goodell in June that he had punched Janay Palmer Rice.

These inconsistencies have not convinced the Wall Street Journal’s Kevin Clark that Commissioner Goodell will resign or be fired.

“The owners trust Goodell, they don't trust the media, and they think that he is - I've heard this from owners this week - they say, 'he's one of the most trustworthy people I've ever met in my life,'” said Clark.

Among the writers who've been following this story is Peter King, who runs Sports Illustrated’s MMQB site. King reported months ago that the video of Rice punching his wife had been delivered to the NFL. The league did not deny that story at the time, which King finds curious. He feels the same way about the commissioner's contention that he didn't know what had happened in the elevator until he watched the video on Monday.

"There are enough inconsistencies in this story right now that I think that no matter what happens he’s going to have a difficult time winning the trust of the American football fan back,” King said. “There’s no question about it. But I've said this to a lot of people this week, he has to be most concerned with winning the trust of 32 NFL owners."

More important than whether the commissioner will hold on to his $44 million-per-year job is whether the culture of the league will change.

"I think it had better change or else the NFL is a stupid business,” King said. “This has been a massive wake-up call to the NFL to try to realize how important to so many of its constituents the topic of domestic violence is."

The investigation into the league's handling of Rice's assault will be headed by former FBI Chief Robert Mueller, but it will be overseen by the New York Giants owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney, both of whom have employed or continue to employ men who've been disciplined for assault or domestic violence. Clark feels that problem couldn't have been avoided.

“I think that there's an issue with the investigation here in the sense that nearly every team is going to have a player on their roster who's had some brush in this department,” he said. “There have just been too many incidents."

It's a fact that suggests the enormity of the challenge in the NFL and beyond.


This segment aired on September 13, 2014.

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Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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