The Goodell-Must-Go Bag

My Thursday-night pick: Baltimore -2.5 over Pittsburgh. Who cares? Does ANYONE care? Let’s break out the special-edition “HOW THE HELL DOES ROGER GOODELL STILL HAVE A JOB?” mailbag!

But first … how the hell does Roger Goodell still have a job?

Seriously … how the hell does Roger Goodell still have a job?



One more time …


My answers: I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I seriously don’t know, and I can’t f-​-​-​ing figure it out (I don’t know).

It’s official: Roger Goodell is the worst sports commissioner of my lifetime.

That’s something I nearly included in last week’s column about his embarrassingly incompetent eight-year reign, ultimately deciding that it might be too harsh. It’s not too harsh. He’s the worst. He’s worse than anyone in the original Lousy Commish Mount Rushmore: Fay Vincent, John Ziegler, Larry O’Brien and early Gary Bettman. He’s worse than whoever ran the NASL into the ground. He’s worse than Vince McMahon during that one XFL season. He’s worse than William Regal. (Inside joke for the WWE nerds.) He’s worse than the guys who ran the WFL, USFL and MISL (three leagues that no longer exist).

Goodell made history this week — for me, anyway — by becoming the first major sports commissioner ever to inspire me to say, “Doesn’t this feels like Nixon all over again?” How can the same scandal blow up in someone’s face THREE DIFFERENT TIMES? It’s impossible!

But this is America and people love going against the grain. I assumed that I would find at least a couple of reader emails that either defended Goodell or halfheartedly tried to make a case for him.

I was wrong. I didn’t find one.

As always, these are actual emails from actual readers.

Q: Why is TMZ doing a better investigation into Ray Rice than the NFL?
—Patrick, Rockford

BS: First, they actually cared about finding the secret elevator tape … unlike the NFL, which clearly didn’t care even though every inch of a casino is being filmed by a camera at all times. Goodell maintaining that the NFL “kept asking for the tapes” is right out of the dog-ate-my-homework school of bullshit that we learned to see through about 40 years ago. Seriously, just stop. You’re insulting us.

Second, TMZ probably realized that Revel Casino was going out of business over Labor Day weekend, which meant its about-to-be-unemployed workers had nothing to lose by selling the tape. Why didn’t the NFL anticipate the same thing? Because it’s obviously Jackass Central over there. That’s the only explanation. You know why I didn’t know Revel Casino was going under two weekends ago? Because I live in L.A., and because I’m not running a professional sports league that was one resurfaced mystery tape away from a crippling scandal. How did the NFL not know? And if they knew, how did they NOT get the tape? Who’s the NFL’s director of security, Brick Tamland?

Which leads me to my third reason why TMZ outdid Goodell’s league: Either the NFL is run by an overmatched commish who orders around a slew of lackeys and buffoons and never saw that day coming; they saw the tape but never expected it to come out; they watched the tape and then buried it (the most nefarious of all the scenarios, by far); they underestimated the impact of the tape (and then some); and/or they were outwitted by the one and only Harvey Levin. Whatever the answer, the NFL failed basic IQ standards here for seven months. It waited five months to give a verdict, botched it so horrendously that it had to create a loophole-filled domestic-violence policy on the fly, then redid the Rice verdict a second time when the second tape came out. Last time I checked, real life doesn’t have a RESET button.

This wasn’t Goodell’s first mega-screwup; we’re on no. 8 or no. 9 at this point. But it’s his most memorable botch job, and easily his most indefensible. He needs to go. Put the league in someone else’s hands, please. We need the help.

Q: So I have to wait for someone Goodell hired to find out if Goodell is lying? I have no reason to think the AP report isn’t true, and for owners to stand by Goodell because he’s made them enough money is terrible.
—Lee Brewer, Los Angeles

BS: So you don’t have a ton of confidence in an “independent” investigation led by owners from two of the team’s oldest-run families (the Maras and Rooneys) and conducted by someone who works for a law firm (WilmerHale) that just helped the NFL negotiate a 10-figure deal with DirecTV? And you think maybe it doesn’t look great that the current Ravens president (Dick Cass) spent 30 years working for that same law firm? Hold on, what’s that smell?

Q: Will we end up calling the NFL’s new domestic violence policy “The Ray Rice Rule?”
—Joseph, VA Beach

BS: Too soon to say. When an athlete gets a rule or innovation named after him, he’s either being immortalized (like the Alcindor Rule, Gretzky Rule, Fosbury Flop, Hack-A-Shaq or even the (Larry) Bird rights) or he lucked out for being in the right place at the right time (the Trent Tucker Rule).

Ray Rice made a reprehensible choice, then his league covered it up reacted to that choice in the worst possible way. Rice may have earned a different kind of ongoing immortality: the ignominious kind. We will see.

Q: Why did it take the TMZ videotape to make this incident become “intolerable” and “outrageous” to the NFL and especially the Ravens? From what I have read and heard, Ray Rice never lied about what happened in the elevator. Yet, the Ravens stood by Rice, called him a good man, held a press conference in which he apologized to everybody but his wife, tweeted her apology for, I guess, allowing herself to be hit and knocked unconscious, and even implied that Ray had some justification for what happened. So if Rice told them what happened and he was still a “good guy,” somebody the Ravens were willing to stand behind, and somebody who deserved only a limited suspension from the NFL, why is he now not that same guy? The Ravens and NFL were willing to embrace the man right up until public opinion made that a bad business move.  It’s jaded and it’s insulting and it needs to be called out. The NFL and Ravens (and pretty much every media outlet) didn’t screw up by not finding the videotape; they screwed up by never realizing that what happened in that elevator is unacceptable and intolerable regardless of whether a video exists or not. That’s where the focus should be, right?
—Erica Phillips, Boise, Idaho

BS: The second video changed the conversation by eliminating any and all ambiguities, as the impact of those visual images incensed just about everyone. And it wasn’t just the violence. Rice never reacted to the sight of his unconscious fiancée as if he were thinking, Uh-oh, I just injured someone I love; more like, I don’t know if she’s alive or dead, I just know that I need to figure out what the hell to do with this body. That video was appalling. Other than that, I agree with everything Erica wrote, especially this: “The Ravens and NFL were willing to embrace the man right up until public opinion made that a bad business move.”

Perfect. That’s exactly what happened. And that’s my biggest issue with Goodell — it’s not just his tone deafness and his penchant for reacting instead of acting. He’s so freaking calculated. About everything. For eight years, he’s handled his business like some father of a high school kid who’s hosting a prom party, sees some unresponsive drunk kid sprawled across the bathroom floor, then thinks to himself, Crap, I might get sued, what do I do? instead of This kid might be hurt, we have to help him! He needs to go.

Q: If Goodell played the President on 24, would he take Jack Bauer off the job for no good reason, let the bomb go off then deny it’s going off, or hire a second terrorist group to purposefully stop so people would forget about the first one?
—Max, Cleveland

BS: Probably all three. Max just came up with the perfect way to describe Goodell — he really IS like a 24 president. In other words, he’s just realistic enough that you can’t figure out if he’s making these monster mistakes intentionally or unintentionally, only he’s just unrealistic enough that you keep muttering to yourself, “Wait, something just doesn’t add up here.” And you could definitely see him involved in a scene like this:

Jack (on his cell): “I’m in Atlantic City — Roger, I JUST SAW THE TAPE!”

[Cut to Roger in his office, listening on a speaker phone, looking furtively at two henchmen.]

Goodell [long pause]: “What tape?”

Jack: “The tape! Ray Rice! The original elevator tape!”

[We close in on Goodell as ominous music plays.]

Roger: Jack? I want you to un-see the tape.

Jack: What?

Roger: Un-see the tape.

Jack: I CAN’T DO THAT!!!!!!!

Q: Why can’t the NFL create an ESPN special to announce the suspensions from every offseason? Run it during early July and the dream of owning the whole year is solved. Get the fans involved by having Goodell let fans vote a player to get more or less via Twitter. The world needs this.
—Patrick, Minneapolis

BS: Come on, ESPN would never run that show! We have standards! Sure, those standards don’t include refraining from airing the (undeniably disturbing) elevator video on every ESPN network on and off for 72 solid hours even though we wouldn’t run the Kevin Ware video, but hey, we have standards!

Q: I can’t wait until next month when the league requires its players to wear pink, because Roger Goodell really cares about women’s health.
—Alex Hensel, Denver

BS: You just described why Goodell needs to resign before October 1. Or the NFL could keep him and change its name to the HFL (Hypocritical Football League). It’s a coin flip.

Q: Please answer this in your column. Do you believe Ray Rice should lose his football career?
—Sarah, East Lansing

BS: I believe in second chances if the punishment has been served, and if the punished person made an honest attempt to turn his life around AND atone for his mistake. If you read my eulogy for my first dog (The Dooze) in 2009, you wouldn’t have expected me to defend Michael Vick’s right to play football 20 months later. But Vick suffered an appropriate penalty for his crimes, showed the right level of remorse, changed his life for the better and even spent real time raising awareness about animal abuse. Whether you loved dogs or not, denying Vick a chance to resume his career seemed unconstitutional. So what’s the appropriate penalty for Ray Rice? What should he do over these next 12 to 24 months to change his life? How will he demonstrate the proper level of remorse? How can he help raise awareness for domestic violence in a way that doesn’t include the letters “TMZ”? That hasn’t played out yet. It’s too early to have an answer here.

Q: Does Goodell’s blown cover-up of the Rice tape finally give credence to the conspiracy theorists (like myself) that believe the Spygate tapes were so egregious, he destroyed them to save the face of the NFL brand? Remember, this is a man so drunk with power, he thought the Rice tape wouldn’t surface.
—Connor, Pittsburgh, PA

BS: I have “drunk with power” as a +250 underdog to “stubborn and incompetent.” But to answer your question, this was a big week for Spygate Truthers. I can’t come up with a good comeback other than this one.

Q: I’m the Commissioner for my fantasy football league.  Where do I send in my resume to replace Goodell? Seriously, I think I can be a better commissioner at this point.
—Stephen, Covina

BS: I mean … you’re not going to be worse, right? How many years have you run that fantasy league? Does everyone pay on time? When two owners get snippy on email, can you defuse it before someone quits the league? And are you smart enough to know that every casino elevator has cameras? You might be closer than you think.

Q: Will we look back at the Ray Rice incident as the beginning of the end of the dominance of football’s reign as top sport?
—Sandy Hartwiger

BS: I think we’ll look back at the entire Goodell era that way (not just Rice) … UNLESS the right commissioner takes over and starts quickly repairing the damage. And by the way? Don’t rule that out. Following Goodell is gonna be like following the worst boyfriend ever — you can’t lose no matter what you do. That’s why Steve Ballmer paid $2 billion for the Clips, right? It wasn’t just about the L.A. market or overpaying a little to join a hot league; Ballmer knew Clippers fans would love Anyone Not Named Sterling. Same logic goes for future NFL commish candidates. Terrific job, huge financial upside, huge social upside. So let’s find someone! Maybe Adam Silver 2.0 is lurking out there. Speaking of …

Q: The NBA seems to be an overwhelming winner of the TMZ-Rice scandal. The Levenson fiasco, which would have been the NBA’s second racist owner crisis in about four months, was almost completely buried, right at the time when the NBA seems to be hammering out the terms for its next TV deal. Is there any chance that Adam Silver and the NBA leaked the Ray Rice video to TMZ?
—George B., Cleveland, Ohio

BS: I love George — he roots for an NBA team that lost the world’s best basketball player under mysterious circumstances, then miraculously won three of the next four lotteries. And now he’s wondering if Adam Silver was involved in a DIFFERENT conspiracy? Cleveland fans are the best. (Just kidding, Adam! But seriously, how great does Adam Silver look right now? Is there any way in a million years that he would’ve handled the Rice fiasco even 12.5 percent as badly?)

Q: Why aren’t other players like Greg Hardy or Ray McDonald also being suspended? Does it need to be caught on tape so that it looks bad enough for the league to act? Greg Hardy not only committed domestic violence, but had a pile of guns big enough to throw someone on to. The message I’ve gotten from the NFL is not “Don’t hit your wife,” but “Don’t be dumb enough to get caught on tape.”
—Ryan L., Connecticut

BS: And also, “We’re not gonna react unless there’s a damaging video.” I’d throw that one in there, too. As Grantland’s Andrew Sharp pointed out on Tuesday, Rice was initially suspended for two games, but Ray McDonald and Greg Hardy played in Week 1? Why didn’t the league revisit its domestic-violence policy in 2012 after Javon Belcher’s horrific murder-suicide? Maybe it’s unfair to say that Goodell reacts instead of acts … sometimes he doesn’t react at all. (Unless he’s trying to butter up a media member. I forgot.)

Q: In the wake of the most recent scandal, I think this clip just about sums up the country’s feeling toward Roger Goodell:

—Jim McDonnell, Sausalito

BS: The guy who spent two weeks of his life making the “Vince McMahon Says You’re Fired For 5 Minutes” clip is devastated right now.

Q: Like Tess told everyone in Ocean’s 11? “You of all people should know Terry, in your hotel [casino], there’s always someone watching.” When did that movie come out? 2001! Here’s another attack ad slogan for you: “ROGER GOODELL — THE GUY WHO TOOK ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AWAY FROM OCEANS 11!”
—Michael G, Richmond, VA

BS: That point can’t be banged home enough. Just last month, Dave Jacoby and I were riding an elevator at Encore Las Vegas, glanced up to the bubble camera over our heads and had the requisite, “Where the hell is Ray Rice’s elevator video?” conversation.

Again, Goodell spent five months figuring out a punishment after the initial Rice incident. None of his employees ever made the point, “It’s a freaking casino, that tape exists — you have to find it before you dole out that penalty”? Not one person said that? What about the AP’s report that someone in the NFL’s office confirmed receiving the casino’s tape, or OTL’s report that Ray Rice absolutely admitted to Goodell, way back in June, that he punched his wife in the face? And how do we reconcile the fact that, back in July, two well-connected reporters (Chris Mortensen and Peter King) reported what NFL sources had told them happened in that second elevator video … and they got the details correct? Now we’re supposed to believe nobody saw the tape? I mean, did they go to a f-​-​-​ing psychic together? This whole thing is so insulting. We have to free Jack Bauer! He knows what happened!

Q: I believe the biggest takeaway from the Ray Rice fiasco is how easy it now is to determine which journalists are in bed with the league and which aren’t? 
—Ryan Kiefer, New York

BS: My biggest takeaway was the Peter Principle (no pun intended).

Q: Would you please start calling Goodell “Eggo?” Tired of this waffler.
—Ethan, Rowlett, TX

BS: I love waffles — I can’t give Goodell a nickname that makes me hungry. If you want to give him a derisive nickname, isn’t it Roger Dodger?

Q: Add this to the list of Roger Goodell’s horseshit resume: he can’t even get the announcers of his own league to correctly name the product of their $400 Million (not an exaggeration) sponsor. How hard is it to tell make sure the producer at every network knows the name of their sponsors? He couldn’t even just send out a memo with the words, “MICROSOFT SURFACE” over and over again?
—EJ, Seattle

BS: Can you imagine what this mailbag would have looked like if I tried to defend Goodell with every answer? I mean, on the bright side — he did make the owners an extra $400 million, right?

Q: How is it possible that Roger Goodell cannot be fired? Would there be any better possible move than replacing him with Condoleezza Rice. How can you top replacing a privileged buffoon oligarch with a highly qualified African-American woman who has publicly stated that running the N.F.L would be dream job?
—Josh, Indianapolis

BS: Co-sign! Isn’t this the kind of stuff we should be using SportsNation for? Would Condi get 95 percent of the vote? 96 percent? 99 percent? Have I mentioned yet that Goodell needs to step down?

Q: Cowherd was discussing Playmakers on ESPN Radio today. I remembered the name but forgot what the show was about. While researching, I stumbled upon your 2003 review. This was an actual quote from you: “Playmakers never seems totally believable; it’s like a distorted, over-the-top version of the NFL. For instance, Episode No. 2 revolves entirely around painkillers, crack, steroids, and players beating drug tests by injecting clean urine into their (expletives) with a catheter. Apparently strippers, lap dances, date rape and abortions are scheduled for Episode No. 3.” Isn’t it unbelievable that in 2003 you (and society in general) thought the above episode plots were unbelievable for NFL players? Damn.
—Jason, Atlanta

BS: Ladies and gentlemen, the Roger Goodell Era!

Q: Do you remember the show Playmakers, which reportedly was cancelled at the request of the NFL?  In one season, the show dealt with steroid use, a gay football player, and a domestic violence incident involving a running back. In one season! Was that the most realistic sports show ever (other than the pick-up game in the parking lot outside the night club)?! That has to surpass anything The White Shadow put together.
—Mike L, Oakland, CA

BS: One more time, let’s hear it, ladies and gents … put your hands together and salute the Roger Goodell Era!

Q: After seeing the Ray Rice video online, then hearing the NFL state that they did not see the video until TMZ put in online, I got to thinking — what are the 10 biggest lies of all time? In no particular order:

1.  “It’s not me. It’s you.”
2.  “There are no soldiers inside of that giant wooden horse.”
3.  “Your money is safe with Bernie Madoff.”
4.  “I’m searching for the real killers.”
5.  “At that moment I hit my face against the player leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth.”
6.  “Yes, that feels good.”
7.  “I.  Did. Not. Have. Sexual. Relations. With. That. Woman.”
8.  “There are Weapons of Mass Distruction in Iraq.”
9.  “Welcome aboard the Titanic. Yes, this boat is unsinkable.”
10. “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 and no one in our office has seen it until today.”
—Dave C., Melrose, MA

BS: You left out “I am not a crook,” “Lemme start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period,” “Read my lips: no new taxes,” “I did not bet on baseball,” “Don’t be ridiculous, it doesn’t bother me at all that you did porn” and “the over/under for mailbags this summer is 3.5 — take the over.”

Q: I have two daughters: a one-month old and a two-year old. In the first year of my older daughter’s life she donned a Flacco jersey, learned to say ” boo” at the mention of the word “Steelers”, and watched the Ravens win the Super Bowl. The following year (before the 2013 season) she received a Ray Rice jersey which still fits her as we enter her third Ravens season. What do I do? Can she wear it? If I’m in public or at a football party will people think I’m a horrible father — even fellow Ravens fans? Keep in mind that, as with the Flacco jersey, the Rice jersey is scheduled to be a hand-me-down for the current one-month old daughter when her time comes, and that I’m kind of cheap. As you can see, the fallout from the Rice spectacle ranges far and wide.
—Stephen S., Washington, DC

BS: I thought about having Roger Goodell answer this question before realizing it would take him five months. So allow me to put on my serious Dad With A 9-Year-Old Daughter Who Doesn’t Think ESPN Should Show The Elevator Video And Takes This Stuff Personally hat for a second: Just get rid of the Rice jersey. Buy a different one.

Q: This isn’t a question and it’s not funny or silly or ironic in any way, and likely doesn’t belong in the mailbag, but I’m writing in nonetheless.

As a survivor of domestic violence, I’ve carefully watched the Ray Rice situation play out on the national media and social media stages. Domestic violence, like addiction and mental health issues, is often misunderstood by the media and the general public. It’s complex and personally challenging for most people to understand how a woman or a man can return to their abuser, often repeatedly and for years. As a result, the victim is often overlooked or the act is somehow justified (as initially was the case with Ray Rice). Clearly, a reasonable person who watched the first video, which showed Rice dragging his unconscious fiancé out of an elevator, easily could have determined that this result occurred from him striking her. Instead, the NFL responded casually as did many in the media and general public. Some even pointed the finger at the victim with a “she antagonized him = she deserved it” kind of mentality, rather than the drawing the more obvious conclusion of Rice’s guilt.

I was 26, law school educated and working in the entertainment industry when I found myself in a two year relationship with an abuser. What began as simple put downs and controlling behavior escalated into being choked, punched, kicked, shoved into walls, thrown out of a car naked without house keys, and more, as well as enduring tremendous mental abuse including being lied to and cheated on. I stayed with him because I was repeating a cycle that I had experienced as a child with a mentally checked out mother. With few other outlets, my abuser had become my entire life, however odd that may sound to those who have not endured domestic violence. I had created my own emotional, physical and psychological nightmare and I struggled to find a way out of a toxic and twisted reality.

That relationship ended nearly five years ago and it took me three years to recover from being “a shell of a person,” as a former co-worker described me. With intense therapy, a good job and an honest and loving support system, I’m “recovered,” or as recovered as someone who has been abused can ever be. It changes you and it takes years to feel better. I’m still wondering if I will ever be able to trust again. So as my friends get married and have kids, I was pleasantly surprised a few weeks ago when I was able to successfully go on a date.

I share my story because today’s reaction by the Baltimore Ravens meant something to me. I know it was very late in coming and it only resulted from the release of a horrific video, but societal changes in opinion and attitude, especially on topics of gender, race and discrimination take time to develop, and this week, we made progress and shined a national spotlight on an issue that often is hidden behind doors and sometimes only whispered about with disdain for the victim.
—J, Los Angeles

BS: Thank you for the email. Coming Friday: my Week 2 picks. Like anyone cares.

This article has been updated to correct the name of Ravens president Dick Cass.

Filed Under: NFL, Roger Goodell, Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens


Bill Simmons is the founding editor of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

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