*A few months ago I wrote that I wasn’t surprised at the punishment given to Ray Rice. The main reason for my position was that there was too much money at stake.
Sure enough everything with the NFL and Baltimore Ravens was business as usual all summer. There is footage of Ray Rice being greeted warmly by fans after preseason games. And then last week the video that showed exactly what happened between Rice and his (then) fiancée became public. The images weren’t pretty.
Now that we all have seen what happened I am not surprised that Rice’s two game suspension tuned into an indefinite suspension. I also must admit that I was wrong to imply that Rice’s actions were okay because I incorrectly read that a weapon was involved.
In addition I am not surprised that there are calls for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to lose his job. I suppose this is because Goodell didn’t punish Rice enough when he first had a chance. But barring specific evidence, like how the video raised the stakes for Rice’s punishment, Goodell will keep his job. And the reason is the same reason that Rice was going to keep his job: money.
Goodell’s main duty is to make sure the NFL owners continue to make money. Race Rice was going to help that money to be made so Goodell minimized the initial suspension. Furthermore Goodell’s punishment went farther than the criminal justice system of New Jersey. And beyond Goodell’s suspension the Baltimore Ravens had the authority to add disciplinary action of their own. But they declined. At this point, saying Goodell should lose his job is turning him into the scapegoat for the leniency of the Atlantic City district attorney and the greed of the Baltimore Ravens.
What would make more sense is asking for Goodell to lose his job because he has been following in this instance instead of leading. He went from issuing a two game suspension to revamping the league’s domestic violence policy to suspending Rice indefinitely based on public opinion. But once the two game suspension was handed down the only alternative would have been for Goodell to stick to that as the benchmark for these types of incidents. I don’t think anyone believes that is the best outcome. If you are wrong about something initially and people call you out on your wrongness, then being reactionary is a good thing.
Probably the only way Goodell really does lose his job is if it is discovered that Goodell saw the video of Rice punching his fiancée and covered up his viewing to justify the two game suspension. However even then I can imagine him keeping the job because everything he is doing and has done was to try to keep the money flowing into the owner’s pockets. If they keep making money (and they do) why would they fire him? And why would we think they won’t keep making money? Through the first two weeks of the season the NFL is as popular as ever. Fans of the Raven’s, who again were just as culpable in the overall leniency of Rice’s punishment, came out to support the team in the first home game. If the fans can say that they attended the game because they already used their hard earned money to buy tickets and they shouldn’t have to waste their money, then Goodell and the owners are just as justified in looking after their economic interests.
None of this means that Rice should have hit his fiancée. None of what I said means that Goodell (now having seen the video) was as harsh as he should’ve been back in July. And I’m not saying I like or agree how money influences decision makers, but I do understand the influence.
So the bottom line is if the money keeps flowing, Goodell will keep his job.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.