For Goodell & NFL, Ignorance is Bliss in Rice Saga

Is it time for the National Football League to look for a new Commissioner? In light of the botched handling of the Ray Rice Domestic Violence case, it would appear so. Apart from a new TMZ video surfacing, one that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Ravens say that they never saw until two days ago, the facts remain the same as they were back in February.  Namely, Ray Rice knocked out his then fiancée (now wife), Janay Palmer, in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino.

Despite their insistence that they had never viewed videotaped footage from inside the elevator, it’s beyond incredulous to believe that Goodell and company were unaware of the actual violent event that transpired in the elevator. How else would one explain Ray Rice carrying the limp, unconscious body of his fiancé out of the elevator? Oh, wait. Perhaps she passed out on her own, without any extra-curricular help from Mr. Rice. That could have happened, except for one teeny, tiny fact. The police report, which was known by Goodell and the Baltimore Ravens, explicitly stated:

Rice struck his fiancée Janay Palmer “with his hand, rendering her unconscious, at the Revel Casino.”

For his admitted domestic violence — sans the new video-taped evidence — Ray Rice received a two-game suspension. When that suspension — less than the four-game suspension required for drug offenses — proved inadequate in the court of public opinion, Goodell scrambled to rewrite the League’s policies for domestic violence infractions. From this point forward, first infractions will result in a six-game suspension and subsequent infractions will result in a lifetime ban.

While we might applaud the NFL’s aggressive steps in light of the Ray Rice incident, we might also say “too little, too late.” We might also go as far to say that, in light of the newly released videotape actually showing the punch that everyone, including Goodell and the Baltimore Ravens’ organization should have reasonably known occurred, that there was inexplicably poor judgment shown by all parties.

Assuming for the sake of argument that no one in the NFL had seen the footage from inside the elevator, one cannot feign ignorance of what happened, given the facts that were already established by previously released and viewed footage, coupled with the facts contained in the police report. It would appear no facts have changed since February, but instead the heinous sight of Mr. Rice hitting his fiancée was broadcast by TMZ for all the world to see.

The public outrage was, understandably, swift and severe.  As it should be.  What Ray Rice did was despicable, although not beyond redemption. After all, if convicted dog killers can get a second chance, then Ray Rice might also receive a second chance, although I suspect not anytime soon.

As a pastor, I do believe in grace and second chances for all who fall short of God’s standards. But, even grace will not relieve us of the consequences of our actions.  Ray Rice will pay a heavy price for his mistake and well he should. Perhaps one day an NFL team will give Rice an opportunity to make amends.

As a pastor, I do believe in grace and second chances for all who fall short of God’s standards. But, even grace will not relieve us of the consequences of our actions.  Ray Rice will pay a heavy price for his mistake and well he should. Perhaps one day an NFL team will give Rice an opportunity to make amends. As long as the Oakland Raiders are in the League, there is always a spot for folks like Ray Rice.

But, is there a spot for Roger Goodell and League officials who turned a blind eye to the obvious? Who tried to weasel out of a bad situation by claiming ignorance of facts that were plain to see, even without a second videotape? I think not. For all of his political posturing on this incident and so many others throughout the years, Roger Goodell may finally be hoisted on his own petard of slick public relations gone awry. That might be a fitting consequence for such a public failure of moral courage and leadership.

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