Touching All the Bases

It's More Obvious Than Ever That Roger Goodell Needs To Go -- But He Probably Won't

Roger Goodell, NFL offices, Manhattan, approximately 5 p.m. Wednesday:

I think we're all still processing the latest apparent confirmation of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's aggressively inept weasel-hood. But the more you consider this latest development, the more mind-blowing it becomes:

Is the NFL commissioner really as haplessly devious as your run-of-the-mill Scooby-Doo villain?

It seems that way more and more with each passing day, if not hour. Oh, hell, yes, there is something to see here.

The Associated Press, dropping a bombshell of staggering potential magnitude, reported late Wednesday afternoon that the video of then-Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee, now-wife in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino was sent to an NFL executive five months ago.

That contradicts the NFL's claims that they did not see the violent video until this week, when TMZ released the full footage of the February incident when Rice punched out Janay Palmer, then casually dragged her body out of an elevator.

If true, that's damaging enough to the commissioner and the league-- and yet it's not all. The law enforcement official who told the AP he was the person who sent the video played a 12-second voice mail from an NFL office number confirming the arrival of the video.

According to the AP, a female voice on the message says: "You're right. It's terrible."

The same four words apply to the commissioner's handling of this situation over the last seven months. Goodell, whose original two-game suspension of Rice drew wide-ranging ire, suspended the player indefinitely Monday after TMZ released the video. But that came after the Ravens, who spent the last five months as willing enablers of Rice, announced that they were releasing the player.

If it is true that someone in the NFL office had seen the video, the temptation is to suggest that Goodell's reign as NFL commissioner, which began in 2006 and has been a conga line of one blunder (player safety, replacement officials, and every single phase of the Rice situation) after another, is over.

It sure as hell should be. His misguided mission to haphazardly "protect the shield" has led to a callous and apparently deliberate dishonesty. A principled man would fall on that shield out of abject humiliation in moments like this.

But if we know anything right now, we know that is not Goodell's way. He may be humiliated, but there is no way he is humbled. Men who have risen to such power, who make $44 million a year to obfuscate and bloviate and remind us that the league is thriving and ratings are at record levels while former players are blowing their damaged brains out and current players are clobbering women, is not about to have a come-to-Jesus moment now.

This is a man who talks like the perception of a logo matters more than the care and well-being of those who gave their health for this game.

Goodell has proven time and again that he's not a leader of men, but a wannabe master of spin in search of plausible deniability. His favorite phrase, other than that one about the shield, is "to my knowledge, no."

He'll be in desperation see-no-evil mode now. He'll calmly tell us, again, that there is nothing to see here. He can blather smugly about the shield, and try to convince us that he knew nothing about this video.

Nothing to see here becomes I've seen nothing and you can't prove I have. And he will do it all wearing an impeccable, serious suit, perfect for the occasion.

We think we know what he will do next. But we're waiting to see it. And we're not the only ones, nor the ones who matter to him. Those who have come out in support of him, such as Patriots owner Robert Kraft, must be infuriated.

Perhaps the backlash will be such that NFL owners, to whom Goodell is beholden, will recognize the Get Rid Of Goodell groundswell and decide he is a detriment to their reputation and the bottom line and demand his resignation.

Perhaps this is the tipping point. But I'm skeptical. The Buffalo Bills just sold for $1.4 billion. Thirty-four of the 35 most-watched programs last fall were NFL games. Two-hundred-and-five million fans tuned in.

The NFL is thriving beyond even what a billionaire's ego would demand. The shield has taken a few dents, but it's still impenetrable. Only backlash -- relentless, anger-fueled, bottom-line-affecting backlash -- will prompt the owners to act.

And even then, at the end of Roger Goodell's reign of error, that wouldn't stand as the most remarkable part of this saga. It is this: He would have gotten away with it, if not for those meddling TMZ kids.

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