“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.” -John Dulles
Going easy on domestic abusers is bad enough; going easy on them after promising to “get tough” is downright inexcusable.
Shortly after being named Commissioner in 2006, Roger Goodell assured NFL fans that “We hold ourselves to higher standards of responsible conduct because of what it means to be part of the National Football League,” and backed up his words with a number of long-term suspensions for players who violated the rules for off-field conduct.
Sadly, however, Mr. Goodell’s disciplinarian ways don’t seem to extend to players who abuse their wives or girlfriends.
THE RAY RICE CASE
February, 2014 – Baltimore running back Ray Rice is caught on video dragging his fiancee’s unconscious body from an elevator, and Goodell issues him a two-game suspension. Several months later, TMZ releases a video of Rice punching his finacee inside the elevator. Goodell claims never to have seen the video before, and based on this “new evidence”, he suspends Rice indefinitely, claiming that Rice presented a “starkly different series of events” than what appeared on the video when he met with Goodell. But there’s a serious problem.
Atlantic City Police Officers stated in Rice’s complaint-summons that Rice attempted “to cause bodily injury to J. Palmer, specifically by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious.” Former FBI director Robert Mueller, hired to investigate the league’s handling of the matter, stated in his report that “The League obtained Rice’s complaint-summons from the Ravens… prior to the league’s disciplining of Rice in July 2014.” In other words, it is irrelevant whether or not Goodell saw the TMZ video. The police report stated exactly what happened in the elevator, and Roger Goodell had that report BEFORE he issued the two-game suspension.
Commissioner Goodell’s dramatic reaction to the video was a farce, a theatrical production designed to convince the public that he never would have gone so easy on Rice had he known all the facts. But Judge Barbara Jones, who arbitrated the case, ruled that Rice was 100% honest with Goodell, that Rice did NOT present a “starkly different series of events” as Goodell alleged, and that Goodell in fact abused his discretion in assessing the indefinite suspension.
The public was rightly outraged at Goodell’s missteps. The Commissioner offered no persuasive rebuttals to Judge Jones’ findings, and his competence was widely questioned, even as he acknowledged that he “didn’t get it right” and that “we have to do better. And we will.” The furor gradually subsided, but the league certainly could not afford a repeat performance.
Sadly, that’s just what the league got.
THE JOSH BROWN CASE
May, 2015 – New York Giants kicker Josh Brown is arrested after a domestic violence incident involving his then-wife, Molly. After a 10-month investigation, the NFL suspends him for one game. The league acknowledges that Molly accused him of prior abuse, but states that “despite multiple attempts to speak with her about this incident and her previous statements, she declined to speak with us,” and that the associated law enforcement agencies also “declined [the NFL’s] requests for information.”
Two months after the suspension was handed down, the King County Sheriff’s office releases police reports and other documents, showing a disturbing pattern of domestic violence by Brown, as well as unequivocal admissions by Brown himself that he was guilty of repeated abuse. Goodell claims that he wasn’t aware of the extent of the abuse, and immediately re-opens his inquiry. Josh Brown is later placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, meaning he is suspended indefinitely.
Once again, Goodell had access to the arresting officers’ report, which in this case states that, “Given Molly’s complaints of pain, the marks and bruising on her wrist and the statements of both parties I believe that Joshua assaulted Molly.” This alone should have warranted the standard six-game suspension, but there is much more:
1. Josh and Molly’s divorce records, which are publicly available and can be obtained by anyone, contain admissions by Josh himself that he repeatedly abused Molly. The NFL has neither confirmed nor denied seeing the divorce file, but this is at best a gross investigative failure (if the NFL did not obtain the file), and at worst a willful supression of evidence (if the NFL saw the file and ignored its contents). (http://deadspin.com/the-nfl-always-had-access-to-the-josh-brown-documents-1788037941)
2. On October 20, 2016, Giants owner John Mara told WFAN’s Mike Francesa that Brown “admitted to us he’s abused his wife in the past.” The NFL had only to reach out and ask the Giants what they knew, but again, the league either did not do so or discounted the information once they did.
3. In January of 2016, Molly took her children to Hawaii to watch Josh in the Pro Bowl. Josh showed up at Molly’s hotel room drunk and pounded on the door, demanding to be let in. Molly contacted the league, and NFL Security moved her to another room where Josh would not know where she was (https://www.sny.tv/giants/news/report-nfl-helped-browns-wife-during-pro-bowl-weekend-incident/206723750). As Commissioner of the league, there can be no doubt that Roger Goodell is fully aware of this incident.
Taken together, the evidence in the league’s possession clearly establishes a pattern of abuse that warrants the firm discipline that Goodell claims to believe in. And yet, inexplicably, Brown’s initial punishment was more lenient than Rice’s.
The record is clear. The evidence is beyond dispute. The NFL has not made the “great strides” that Commissioner Goodell claims; in fact, things have gotten worse. We as NFL fans count on the Commissioner to deal harshly with domestic abusers, but we have instead seen a disturbing pattern in which evidence is ignored or downplayed, and players are let off the hook with lenient punishments which are only increased if there is a public outcry. The appearance, true or not, is that Roger Goodell cares more about the image of the NFL than he does about victims of domestic violence.
We need a leader who punishes abusers properly the first time, with or without public fanfare or media attention. Roger Goodell has failed, spectacularly and repeatedly, to do so, and has left no doubt about his own unfitness for the job. We can do so much better.
Please do your part and help remove Roger Goodell as commissioner by signing our petition: