Condoleezza Rice made a startling admission to the New York Times in 2002. The then-national security adviser to President George W. Bush said it was “absolutely right” that she wanted to be commissioner of the National Football League. This was no joke. Rice was serious, but she wanted it to be known that she wouldn’t want to do it “before Paul Tagliabue is ready to step down.”
Well, Tagliabue is long gone and his successor Roger Goodell has made a mess of it. Time for the former secretary of state with an intense love of the game to step in and save the NFL.
We’d all seen the chilling video back in February of Baltimore Raven Ray Rice (no relation to Condi) dragging his unconscious fiancee Janay Palmer off an Atlantic City casino elevator after knocking her out with one punch. For this disgusting display of domestic violence, Goodell slapped Rice with a weak two-game suspension. Last month, Goodell unveiled a new domestic violence policy with tougher penalties. “I didn’t get it right,” Goodell admitted at the announcement.
The release by TMZ today of footage from inside the casino elevator would show the depths of Rice’s depravity. We see Rice hit his fiancee not once but twice. It is stunning, but hardly surprising, to watch Rice’s callous disregard for Palmer in the rest of the three-and-a-half minute video. Batterers are confident in their own superiority.
But the latest elevator video also shows the depth of Goodell’s not getting it right. The Post’s Sally Jenkins paints a devastating portrait of his and the NFL’s ineptitude.
That Goodell is an unduly vain commissioner, and a self-serving one with his eye on some further prize, has always been obvious. That he obfuscates and evades on tough issues unless they are convenient for him, that his convictions are highly selective and so is his enforcement, has never been more apparent. On Monday morning, with the surfacing of that video, Goodell’s nature became totally clear. The NFL claims in a statement that no one in the league office had seen the tape before. That is almost surely not the truth, unless the NFL wanted it that way. This is a league that works with Homeland Security, confers with the Drug Enforcement Agency, collaborates with law enforcement and has its own highly equipped and secretive private security arm. You’re telling me it couldn’t get ahold of a grainy tape from an Atlantic City casino elevator? But TMZ could?
If NFL executives and Baltimore Ravens staff had never seen that tape before, there are only two reasons: willful blindness, and the determination to maintain plausible deniability…. Ray Rice’s own attorney had a copy of it. It simply defies belief that league and team officials couldn’t have seen it if they wanted to.
The NFL’s reputation is in tatters. The league’s players are such flypaper for trouble that the daily newspaper U-T San Diego keeps a database of all offenses “more serious than a speeding ticket.” The latest being the Aug. 31 arrest of San Francisco 49ers player Ray McDonald “on suspicion of felony domestic violence in San Jose.”
Confidence in Goodell’s leadership ought to be in tatters, too. Fans, particularly female fans and the wives and girlfriends of fans, should be appalled by everything he did and didn’t do in the Rice matter. If Bruce Levenson feels compelled to sell his stake in the Atlanta Hawks basketball team because of a few racial observations in a two-year-old e-mail certainly Goodell should find his way to the exit.
Rice really loves football, especially because of its similarities to military strategy. “I really consider myself a student of the game,” Rice told the Times in that 2002 interview. “I find the strategy and tactics absolutely fascinating.” And in talking about why she coveted the gridiron gig, the foreign policy expert who served two presidents and was provost of Stanford University said, “I think it would be a very interesting job because I actually think football, with all due respect to baseball, is a kind of national pastime that brings people together across social lines, across racial lines. And I think it’s an important American institution.”
It’s an institution in dire need of her help.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj