NFL chief Roger Goodell faces intense criticism after Ray Rice video

Posted at 8:01 PM, Sep 09, 2014
By Steve Almasy and Ashley Fantz


(CNN) — Ray Rice is out of a job. An increasing number of critics think National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, the man in charge of disciplining the star player, should be next.

The commissioner told CBS News on Tuesday that he was sickened by what he saw on a newly released video that showed Rice knocking out his now-wife with a ferocious punch, but insisted that Monday was the first time he or anyone in NFL headquarters had seen the full scope of the February incident.

He also deflected criticism of his handling of Rice’s case and his initial lenient penalty for the Baltimore Ravens running back’s act.

When asked did he really need to see a video of the brutal knockout punch to decide on the length of Rice’s punishment, the commissioner said, “No.”

“What we saw in the first videotape was troubling to us in and of itself,” Goodell said, referring to another video that surfaced in February after the incident, showing Rice dragging his fiancee, Janay, out of the elevator. “But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear. It was extremely graphic and it was sickening.”

The new footage from inside an Atlantic City hotel elevator prompted Goodell to suspend the veteran player indefinitely.

It also made many sports commentators even angrier about the league’s botched reaction to the incident — an initial two-game suspension for Rice — something Goodell has admitted he didn’t get right.

Outspoken ESPN personality Keith Olbermann called Goodell an “enabler of men who beat women” and demanded the commissioner resign or be fired.

“Mr. Goodell’s ineptitude has not merely rendered this football season meaningless and irrelevant by contrast, it has not only reduced supporting or watching football to a distasteful, even a disrespectful act, but most importantly it has comforted the violent and afflicted the victim,” Olbermann opined Monday.

“His push to increase NFL punishment of domestic abusers to roughly that one-third that of repeat pot smokers, his decision today to suspend Rice indefinitely, after the Ravens had fired him, are elements of classic tragedy, wherein the right thing is finally done only after it’s too late to matter.”

San Francisco Chronicle sport columnist Ann Killion agreed.

“Roger Goodell should follow Rice out the door — his leadership has no integrity and no longer can be trusted by the public. He should resign,” she wrote.

Goodell told CBS that the league assumed an in-elevator video existed and asked law enforcement for it, but was never given the opportunity to view it. It wasn’t until Monday, when he arrived at the office and staffers told him there was something he needed to see, that he viewed the video.

Former NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels, in a column posted on Football by Football, blamed Goodell for a colossal failure, but didn’t call for him to step down.

“Roger Goodell is powerful. He is connected. He has unlimited resources at his disposal. He can make things happen. He didn’t do his job. He failed in epic proportions,” Rosenfels wrote.

In a tweet, the former player wrote of suspending Rice indefinitely: “Roger Goodell made $44 million last year to make really difficult decisions. This was an easy one.”

Goodell has admitted that his initial two-game suspension of Rice was the wrong decision. He said so when he announced a new policy penalizing acts of violence like domestic abuse or sexual assault.

The new rules meant a minimum six-game ban, but the penalty didn’t apply to Rice’s case.

The policy was greeted with commendations, but the fact that Rice was going to be back in uniform soon even though the league knew he had knocked Janay Rice unconscious drew loud condemnation.

The criticism intensified after the new video surfaced Monday.

“Goodell elected himself the league’s top cop. Is he Barney Fife?” wrote ESPN’s Jason Whitlock. “Did he not talk to the police or hotel security personnel who saw the tape?”

Goodell told CBS that he wasn’t going to step down and that criticism was an everyday part of the position.

Did NFL do what it could to see video?

While the league said it never saw the new video until it was posted online, many question whether the NFL tried hard enough to view it before Monday.

TMZ ran a story Tuesday, citing anonymous sources, saying the NFL never asked the casino for the video, and had it asked, the video would have been handed over.

Reacting to that report, NFL officials said they asked state police for evidence related to the case, but authorities did not give the video to them.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said that security for Atlantic City casinos is handled by New Jersey State Police.

In a statement to CNN on Tuesday, McCarthy said: “Any videos related to an ongoing criminal investigation are held in the custody of the state police. As we said yesterday: We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us.”

Coy Wire, a former NFL player-turned-Fox sports analyst, told CNN that he doubted the NFL was unaware of the TMZ video.

The NFL should have done more to find it, he insisted. “There should have been a way for them to find out,” he said. “And if not, well then, they need to hire someone from TMZ to do the investigative services for them because I think that’s absurd.

“For them to not make a concerted effort to find out what really happened inside the elevator, it baffles me.”

Former Ravens offensive lineman Wally Williams said that he agrees. “They (the NFL) are just trying to save themselves on this one,” he said. “I think they all had an opportunity to see this video.”

In June, Goodell met with Rice and his wife at the NFL office in New York to hear their versions of what happened. Janay Rice reportedly sat beside her husband as she described what happened.

After hearing that and taking another month to evaluate the evidence the league had gathered, Goodell suspended Rice for two games of a 16-game season. He also was to forfeit a third game’s pay — reportedly a total of $529,411.

Now Rice’s career appears all but over. After the in-elevator video surfaced, he was released by the Ravens and was suspended indefinitely by the NFL. He’s not even eligible to play in the Canadian Football League, which honors NFL bans.

Goodell, however, told CBS it would be possible for Rice to make an NFL comeback if the running back proved he had addressed the domestic violence issue and that he had paid a price for his actions.

The commissioner would have to lift his suspension. A league spokesman said Monday that the commissioner’s office would want to provide direction on any potential new contract.

Players blast Goodell

Other players and former competitors have expressed their disgust about the entire matter on Twitter.

Green Bay Packer T.J. Lang on Monday tweeted, “2 games. Disturbing.”

Former NFL player London Fletcher’s message of disappointment was retweeted more than 1,800 times.

“@nflcommish to say you got that wrong is an understatement. Very disappointed in you. Wow…unbelievable.”

CNN’s Jill Martin and Jennifer Bernstein contributed to this report.

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