Roger Goodell played God… and lost

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely, and now it’s absolutely certain that Roger Goodell should be removed as commissioner of the National Football League.

Whether Goodell leaves the commissioner’s office via voluntary means or the owners of the NFL make him leave really makes no difference.  Regardless of how it happens, it’s time for Goodell to go.

Since taking the office from Paul Tagliabue in 2006, Goodell has amassed a troubling amount of power.  He successfully took the league’s executive branch and turned the NFL into a one-person dictatorship.  With the advent of Goodell’s personal conduct policy, the NFL handed its commissioner the power to be judge, jury, and executioner over the league and its players.  And it’s painfully obvious after the video of Ray Rice striking his fiancee in an elevator emerged on Monday that Goodell holds neither the wisdom, nor the common sense, to handle one of those roles successfully — let alone all three.

For years, Goodell has been a walking contradiction.  He has proclaimed himself to be a champion of player safety and great humanitarian causes while pushing for an 18 game schedule against the wishes of those players.  He has taken many public steps to combat the notion that the league hasn’t done enough to combat its concussion crisis while at the same time reportedly working behind the scenes to force league partner ESPN out of the League of Denial documentary on the same subject.

And now perhaps the most unflattering contradiction of all — a commissioner who is more than happy to push merchandise marketed towards female fans while taking one of the most pathetic stances towards domestic violence ever seen in the public arena.  America’s stomachs should turn when they see NFL teams decked out in pink this October.

Goodell is a hypocrite.  And nowhere is this illustrated more clearly than his personal conduct policy.

Without any checks and balances to Goodell’s discipline, his personal conduct policy has fallen apart like a house of cards.  Nowhere else but the 6 inches between Roger Goodell’s ears does the following resemble a coherent “policy”…

Knock your wife unconscious?  2 Game Suspension.

Shooting yourself in the leg?  4 Game Suspension.

Free tattoos in college?  5 Game Suspension.

Sexual assault allegations?  6 Game Suspension.  (Later reduced to 4 Games.)

Killing a man in a DUI accident?  16 Game Suspension.  Check that, if you kill a teammate in a drunk driving accident it’s only 10 games.

And then there’s Goodell’s personal crusade against the Saints organization, where his heavy-handed punishments of players involved in BountyGate were overturned by an appeals panel.  The panel stated that Goodell had overstepped his authority in suspending players like Jonathan Vilma for 16 games.  Only in Roger Goodell’s world is domestic violence a lesser crime than free tattoos.  Only in Goodell’s world do two DUI manslaughter cases draw different punishments.

It was only going to be a matter of time before Goodell would fall on the sword of his own autocratic rule.  With his personal conduct policy containing no guidelines outside of his own whim, a complete and total breakdown of his policy was inevitable.

That breakdown came in his 2-game suspension of Ray Rice.  Goodell, for perhaps the first time in his commissionership, admitted a mistake in issuing that light punishment and making a misstep in his personal conduct policy.  He even issued a new, actual, honest-to-goodness policy on domestic violence with guidelines in print instead of scribbled on used Subway napkins in his office.  Now that the video of Rice’s left hook has been published by TMZ, even that attempt at a public make-good seems like falling woefully short.

Whatever the truth may be, and that’s becoming increasingly difficult to discern when it comes to Goodell’s reign over professional football, there is no scenario that exists where Goodell can emerge with his job intact after the Rice fiasco.

In the first scenario, if we must believe the NFL’s account that the league and the commissioner did not see the videotape of Rice delivering a punch to knock his fiancee unconscious, it is an embarrassing failure by the commissioner to do his job.  If Goodell truly did not see that video until today, he must admit to the world that the investigative unit of TMZ Sports can outwit, outthink, and outmaneuver a league whose teams are worth a combined $45 billion dollars.  If this development truly “shocked” Goodell and motivated him to further action, then he must admit that his investigation into the alleged assault was laughably impotent and ineffective.

In the second scenario, Goodell and the league is simply lying in the face of its owners, its players, and its fans.  And there is enough smoke to indicate that there should at the least be further intense scrutiny of who knew what and when.  If Goodell is lying and there’s actual proof the league had access to the elevator video (as TMZ would indicate is the case, and they may just be more trustworthy than the league at this point), then he has the credibility of Nixon after the release of the Watergate tapes.

Truthfully, regardless of the exact scenario, Goodell’s initial proclamation to suspend Rice for only 2 games must be held as one of the single worst decisions ever made by a league commissioner.  Although the visual of Rice’s inhumane actions in that elevator are haunting, they were not a secret.  Human beings don’t become unconscious by accident.  When the video emerged of Rice carrying his limp fiancee’s body out of that Atlantic City elevator, Goodell had more than enough evidence at his disposal to deliver a lengthy suspension.

Goodell chose not to.

Goodell failed.

Goodell only acted today because the world knows now just how badly he failed.

On Sept. 8, the most powerful man in professional sports was left to sheepishly suspend a running back who had already been cut by his own team.  A fitting end to Goodell’s empire that has come crumbling down.

After Goodell leaves his office, the NFL must act to ensure their league does not fall into complete shambles like this again.  At the moment the league’s most popular sports and entertainment brand is also its most reviled.  As the fallout continues, it will be difficult for the NFL to overcome the worst stain on the shield in recent memory.

The NFL must move forward by instituting a real policy that outlines disciplining guidelines and ensure that centralized power does not fall on the shoulders of one individual.

The NFL must ensure they never have to deal with another Roger Goodell again.

About Matt Yoder

Managing Editor of Awful Announcing and award winning sportswriter. Bloguin consigliere. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.