The NFL is hard to predict, but you could have safely bet money that any bad news about Roger Goodell would be coming out while the nation was in a collective food coma and not engaged. Sure enough, the news that Ray Rice had won his appeal hit at about 2 p.m. on “Black Friday.”
So here we are, and last week seems like forever ago. We got to debate whether anyone would pick up Ray Rice, get absorbed into a dramatic weekend of college football, and then talk about the Rams and Ferguson.
In our 24-hour attention cycle, that decision is in the past. In September, Jason Whitlock, Keith Olbermann, and Bill Simmons called for Goodell’s resignation. Tedy Bruschi did so after Goodell’s press conference, saying “I don’t even know if he believes what he is preaching.”
The heat from those moments has died down, predictably, with the passage of time. The underlying rationale, though, was only strengthened by a finding that appears to have been perfectly timed for minimal impact.
From the New York Times:
In her ruling, Judge Jones did not dwell on what efforts the N.F.L. might have made to obtain the video before it became public. Instead, she emphasized the importance of Mr. Goodell’s first meeting with Mr. Rice last June, which led to the two-game ban. She clearly sided with Mr. Rice’s version of what was said that day and disagreed with the N.F.L.’s argument that Mr. Rice had misrepresented the severity of what occurred and that the league was justified in barring him indefinitely months later.
“In short, I do not find that Rice minimized casually what happened that night,” Judge Jones wrote. “I do not doubt that viewing the video in September evoked horror in Commissioner Goodell, as it did with the public. But this does not change the fact that Rice did not lie or mislead the N.F.L. at the June 16 meeting.”
She added, “That the league did not realize the severity of the conduct without a visual record also speaks to their admitted failure in the past to sanction this type of conduct more severely.”
Jones also found that Goodell didn’t take very good notes (they did contain the word “struck” and not “slapped” in regard to the incident), and therefore found persuasive the detailed notes of Heather McPhee, a lawyer with the NFLPA, that included a quote from Rice that said “and then I hit her.” Adolpho Birch, NFL VP, wrote down but two words at the meeting, “bottle service.” Were they playing “Candy Crush” and just incompetent and not curious to press Rice, or making stuff up when they later claimed he was ambiguous?
Jeff Pash wants you (or the owners, in a private memo that PFT reported) to know that this decision in no way questions Goodell’s honesty.
“No part of Judge Jones’s decision questions the Commissioner’s honesty or integrity, nor his good faith consideration of the issue when he imposed the indefinite suspension on Mr. Rice. Nor is there any suggestion that the Commissioner had seen the video from inside the elevator before it became public, or knew of the contents of the video.”
The arbitrator did choose to believe the Rices and the notes from the NFLPA, and not Goodell’s claims of ambiguity, but yeah, it in no way casts doubt about how forthcoming he is. I suppose you could accept Pash at face value and chalk it up to a guy being paid an insane amount of money being incompetent. Or believe Janay Rice when she says Ray Rice was not ambiguous and she “can’t say he[Goodell]’s telling the truth.”
As Mike Florio points out, the arbitrator also noted that Goodell’s calling people together on the morning that the Rice video was released in September to make “sure all of us had the same recollection” is eerily similar to Goodell punishing Sean Payton for organizing his assistants to “make sure our ducks are in a row.”
Roger Goodell isn’t going anywhere unless the owners say otherwise, but the concerns are there, and honestly, even amplified after some of the details that came out. I look forward to hearing about the results of the “independent investigation” on Christmas Eve. I’ve already ordered the bottle service and have it on the calendar.