Roger Goodell Had One Job — To Protect ‘The Shield’ — And Might Have Failed

Roger GoodellIgnorance is not an excuse.

Those aren’t my words. Those came from Roger Goodell, whose world became much more complicated Wednesday when The Associated Press dropped its bombshell report that the NFL indeed had received video of Ray Rice sucker-punching his then-fiancée in a casino elevator.

Goodell made his “ignorance” comment during the New Orleans Saints’ Bountygate scandal two years ago, when he constantly invoked the importance of protecting “The Shield” from ne’er-do-wells who would tarnish its unrivaled shine. But if the AP’s report is to believed — and it’s not an organization that sources news lightly — Goodell has forgotten that himself.

If the commissioner saw the video of Rice savagely attacking his now-wife and decided a two-game suspension was enough, he did more damage to the NFL’s reputation than 1,000 bounties on Brett Favre. If the commissioner saw the damning video, decided a two-game suspension was enough, denied he had seen the biggest piece of evidence after it became public and forced his hand, then thought he could get away with it — well, he doesn’t understand how this social media-age news world works.

The NFL has many smart people working for it (in the interest of full disclosure, I used to be a league employee), and that’s why a cover-up — which some believed was happening long before AP’s report — doesn’t make any sense. As disgusting as the Rice video is, people would have forgotten about it in time. People don’t forget about lies. This would be a whopper that might take a generation for the NFL to overcome.

The league quickly responded to AP’s report with another denial and a vow to “look into it.” That search should begin immediately and involve an independent entity that can dig deep and freely into the NFL’s Park Avenue office. Goodell can’t be the judge, jury and executioner in this case as, much to the union’s chagrin, he is in player discipline matters. He had that chance and blew it. It’s time for a real, impartial investigation here.

At best, Goodell bungled the Rice investigation and should be embarrassed enough to hand his discipline powers to someone whom the players and fans can trust. At worst, the unthinkable has happened and should lead to Goodell’s resignation. It’d take 24 owners to vote out the commissioner, but with the billions Goodell has made them during his tenure, that isn’t likely, unless there’s a smoking gun. The AP report isn’t a smoking gun, but it’s definitely a hot tamale. And the NFL doesn’t want to be burned.

Goodell tried to shield “The Shield” from trouble like this. His failure might have unwittingly tarnished it.

Photo via Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports Images

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