When it was revealed that Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL and strong-armed distributor of punishment for all things that need it, according to the league, was going to have to testify in Ray Rice’s suspension appeal, we got excited. Not because we’re particularly excited about having to rehash the Ray Rice debacle once again — that’s well-trod at this point, and no one’s defending him or his actions explicitly — but because, should the details make their way into the public domain, it could offer a look into how the league office went about dropping the ball so completely.
For anyone who’s stopped following the case, Rice’s argument for an appeal is essentially an argument against Double Jeopardy. The running back, who was suspended for two games to start the season after being involved in a case of domestic violence, was eventually cut from the Baltimore Ravens after surveillance footage leaked to the pubic, and is claiming that he is effectively being punished twice for the same malfeasance, particularly since he was later suspended indefinitely by Goodell (months after the initial punishment was dolled out) in an apparent effort to help the NFL’s public image. Rice thinks this is unjust. He’s probably right. Which isn’t the same thing as condoning what he did, of course.
The NFL mishandled nearly every aspect of the fiasco, from the initial punishment, which was considerably harsher than others of its ilk even as most sane people realize it wasn’t long enough by half, to the fallout from fans, to their statements about what, exactly, they knew about the case as it was happening. Here’s three things we hope get clarified by Goodell when he testifies on the case.
First and foremost: Who actually saw the footage? There’s been endless debate about whether or not the league office saw the tape — they claim that they didn’t have access to the footage, while pretty much everyone else involved with the case says that they did — but it seems pretty clear that the NFL didn’t do their due diligence in trying to discover what, exactly, happened in the elevator. And why would they? Rice sells a lot of jerseys and shirts.
Secondly, we’d like to know where the initial punishment, the two-game punishment, came from. Sure, it’s harsh compared to what Goodell had doled out in the past, but is the cynical answer really all there is to it? Specifically, that the punishment was deemed perfectly acceptable by the league in order to look like it did something without really addressing the issue at all? Well, OK, so that’s probably exactly what happened, but we’d love for a tape of Goodell confirming it to come to light, because some NFL fans don’t think the league doesn’t care about them.
Thirdly, we’re very interested in how, exactly, Goodell defines “ambiguous,” since that’s the word he used to describe Rice’s initial description of the incident to the league. Maybe it’s just us, but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of grey area here. We’d love to be enlightened.