Rice Scandal Could Spell Doom for Goodell, NFL

Eric TIng, Staff Writer

The Ray Rice saga has more than taken its share of twists and turns in the last couple months. The former Ravens running back was involved in a domestic violence incident with fiance Janay Palmer back in February, where Rice allegedly knocked Palmer out with one punch and dragged her unconscious body out of an elevator. On Monday, Sept. 8, TMZ released a video that caught the blow Rice dealt to Palmer. Rice’s contract with the Ravens was subsequently terminated, and the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely.

Before the video release, the NFL only suspended Rice two games for the incident. The general public was outraged, but now Rice is finally facing the justice many have clamored for. Much controversy still surrounds the situation, with an Associated Press report claiming the NFL had seen the incriminating video before it was released in September. The NFL has denied such allegations.

Also, what was seen in the video is consistent with the stories Rice and Palmer gave in court, raising the following question: How did the video change the situation? Here is a full account of events from February to the video leak.

Feb. 15: Rice and Palmer are both arrested on simple assault charges in an Atlantic City hotel. The police report states: “After reviewing surveillance footage it appeared both parties were involved in a physical altercation. The complaint summons indicates that both Rice and Palmer struck each other with their hands.” A video was released from a hallway camera that caught Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of the elevator.

March 27: Rice is indicted on Aggravated Assault charges.

May 23: Rice apologizes to the Ravens’ organization in a press conference. Janay Palmer who was seated at Rice’s side states: “I do deeply regret the role that I played in the incident that night.” The court report states that Palmer was the initial aggressor in the incident.

July 24: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspends Ray Rice two games for the incident. The decision led to public outrage, many calling for Goodell to step down as commissioner.

Aug. 28: The NFL creates a new domestic violence policy that states a first time offense will incur a six game suspension a second offense will incur an indefinite ban. In a memo to team owners, Goodell says he “didn’t get it right” with Rice suspension.

Sept. 8: TMZ releases the video from the elevator camera that shows Rice’s punch to Palmer.

Goodell has since said that Rice was “ambiguous” in telling his story to the NFL. That statement is highly questionable given the fact that four sources told ESPN that Rice told the full truth to Goodell when the two met after the incident. Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome released a statement saying: “Ray had given a story to (Head Coach) John [Harbaugh] and I. And what we saw on the video was what Ray said. Ray didn’t lie to me. He didn’t lie to me.” Again, what was seen in the video was consistent to what Rice and Palmer testified to in court, so if Goodell booted Rice from the league for lying, that move should have been made back in March after the court date.

It doesn’t help matters for Goodell that TMZ’s executive producer Charles Latibeaudiere is reporting the Atlantic City Hotel had given the NFL the video, contrary to Goodell’s “no one in the NFL saw the video” statement. Latibeaudiere said: “We are assured that someone from the NFL — it wasn’t Roger Goodell walking in, we know that — but there were people from the NFL who came and saw the video.” It is highly improbable the NFL hadn’t seen the video, since the police used the elevator video to determine that Palmer was the initial aggressor. The NFL admits to having seen the hallway camera video of Rice dragging Palmer out of the elevator that was released in February, so it is difficult to believe they didn’t ask for videos from other surveillance cameras to further their investigation.

This situation raises two important questions that go beyond football. Number 1: What did the video really change about the situation? The video accurately depicts Rice’s account of the events he gave in court and to Newsome, so what changed? Seeing unpleasant things makes them seem worse than hearing about them, but going from a two game punishment to an indefinite ban seems like too great a jump. Maybe it was because the two game suspension was way too light to begin with, or (as crazy as it sounds) maybe Rice doesn’t deserve to have his contract terminated and an indefinite ban. In the Ravens’ Week 2 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, three days after the video leak, many female Ravens fans wore their Rice jerseys and defended the fallen star. They cited reasons such as the fact that Palmer was the aggressor and still married him as reasons why Rice shouldn’t take all the blame.

Number 2: Are Goodell’s days as NFL commissioner over? Many still haven’t forgiven the commissioner for his role in the 2011 lockout, and even more resent the controversial player safety rules implemented by Goodell. Allowing Super Bowls to be held in cold weather sites made people seriously question Goodell’s ideology. But now, after failing to deliver a fair punishment back in July, and now flip-flopping and (most likely) lying to the public in September, it’s hard to envision Goodell staying in charge for long.