On Roger Goodell: A compendium of thoughts

It's been particularly difficult this week to focus/care about last weekend's games, or any upcoming action.

The NFL is in crisis, and its commissioner is under fire.

Roger Goodell's bungling of the Ray Rice case is a watershed moment for the league.

Goodell reportedly has the continuing support of franchise owners.

But the sports media that has fawned over him for much of the last decade is starting to turn.

TMZ, which released the video of Rice knocking his then-fiancee unconscious, says it had offered to share it with the NFL:

"Before we published the tape, we had been reaching out to them," Evan Rosenblum, executive producer at TMZ, told Yahoo Sports. "I don't want to get into specifics, but we did reach out to the NFL before we published the tape and we never heard back from them."

Earlier today, CBS This Morning aired an interview of Goodell by Norah O'Donnell:

O'Donnell asked the smart follow-up: what, exactly is ambiguous about Janay Rice laying unconscious on the floor?

"There was nothing ambiguous about that," Goodell said. "That was the result we saw. We did not what led up to that. We did not know the details of that. We asked for that on several occasions. It was unacceptable in and of itself what we saw on the first tape and that's why we took action. Albeit, insufficient action. And we acknowledged that, we took responsibility for that. I did personally and I take responsibility for that now.

"But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear and graphic and was absolutely necessary for us to take the action we did."

Mike Florio, PFT:

It remains unclear how any ambiguity existed, given the plain language of the criminal complaint, which alleges that Rice committed assault “by striking [Janay] with his hand, rendering her unconscious.”  And that’s really the question that needs to be answered.  How was anything ambiguous?  And if it was ambiguous to the point that it conflicted with the plain terms of the criminal complaint, why wasn’t every effort made to resolve the ambiguity with indisputable visual evidence?

Rice’s lawyer had the tape.  The NFL, as best anyone can tell, inexplicably didn’t ask Rice or his lawyer for the tape.

Andrew Brandt, MMQB:

As to the primary credibility question of whether the NFL had seen the damning video, I always try to stay measured and reserve judgment. However, I have seen NFL investigations up close in my time as both an agent and an NFL executive. In my experience, these investigations—which marshal league and team personnel as well as local law enforcement resources—are thorough, comprehensive and leave little to guesswork. For them to not have this key piece of evidence seems at best curious, perhaps shoddy or at worst unconscionable.

Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports:

At best, this is a self-immolation based on arrogance and ignorance. At worst, it's whatever TMZ is calling it now.

Goodell is out of credibility today and that may be the most jarring thing to him. A life of creating the perfect image, of building a base power from his ability to reassure that he can be believed, that he can be fair, that he can get the job done, is crumbling because of Rice and TMZ.

William Rhoden, NY Times:

Goodell, it appears, put protecting the league’s interests ahead of a rigorous pursuit of the facts of the case.

Penn State made the same mistake three years ago. Its actions in the Jerry Sandusky affair dragged the university into one of the worst scandals in major college football history, all because protecting the Penn State brand became more important than protecting the victims. The N.B.A. learned the same lesson this summer, when years of looking past the actions and attitudes of the former Clippers owner Donald Sterling blew up in the league’s face with — just as in the Rice case — the release of a recording by TMZ.

At what point does the preservation of the institution become the highest priority? And if the preservation of the institution is deemed the highest value, what compromises of decency will be made?

Andrew Sharp, Grantland:

The NFL has never had less integrity than it does this week. It’s a low point for now, but who knows what will happen next to drag things a little closer to the gutter.

The only behavior this league polices effectively involves uniforms, celebrations, or marijuana testing that the rest of the country stopped caring about several years ago. Meanwhile, there’s still no HGH policy in place, head injuries remain a problem with no clear solution, domestic violence and offseason crime is an issue that’s not getting better, and as the league pushes for an 18-game schedule and a draft in late May, more people than ever wonder how much longer we can keep watching.

However you feel about football, there are big questions this league has to ask itself over the next few years, and it’s hard to believe Roger Goodell’s the right man to answer them. After almost a decade running the league, he’s getting worse, not better. He’s consistently two steps behind public opinion and miles away from ever actually solving anything.

Sage Rosenfels, former NFL quarterback, for MMQB:

I think Goodell will instruct his office to work hard to try to change people’s view of the league’s position on domestic violence. I expect them to donate money to charities helping battered women. I hope this occurs. But after all that’s gone on, it feels disingenuous to me.

Ian O'Connor, ESPN:

In the end, the football team and the football commissioner got what they deserved. Goodell might have moved past the Spygate and Bountygate messes and the hiring of fake refs for real games. He might someday move past the concussion crisis that continues to rattle his sport to its core.

But this is the game-changer. Rice was supposed to be one of the good guys, a commissioner's dream, a long-shot star who served his community, helped kids and fulfilled a life's mission of buying his mom a new home.

Ultimately, the ultra-likable running back turned out to be something else. And just as it will be nearly impossible to look at Ray Rice without summoning scenes of him punching his fiancée and future wife, it will be nearly impossible to look at Roger Goodell without recalling his staggering inaction in this case.

That's why even if the commissioner survives the videos, his reputation and legacy will not.

Drew Magary, Deadspin:

As of right now, the NFL is doing everything in its power to make you believe that it would never be so insensitive, but it's failing miserably. No lifetime suspension or display of league righteousness will make up for the glaring lack of anger over the past few months. There was no good reason not to watch that tape. They saw it, and they thought little of it, and now they're praying you don't notice.

Esta Soler, President of Futures Without Violence, on the decision to allow Niners end Ray McDonald to play on Sunday, for MMQB:

I strongly disagree with how the 49ers and the NFL handled the Ray McDonald situation. As a first test of the NFL’s domestic violence policy—less than 60 hours after it was announced—Ray McDonald should have been sidelined, with pay, pending the adjudication of the case. Look, I believe in due process. I got my start in the DA’s office in San Francisco. But consider this: In law enforcement, if an officer is under investigation, he or she is sitting out until the case is resolved.

That’s what needed to happen with Ray McDonald. Allowing him to play sent a very mixed message. It’s not just about due process. The 49ers should sideline him until the case is resolved. They can’t ignore the fact that he’s facing a felony charge for hitting a pregnant woman. It’s not just about the gotcha and the penalty, it’s about helping our young men and young women have healthy relationships.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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