Roger Goodell Embarrasses Himself and NFL In Ray Rice Video Debacle

The Associated Press has blasted a massive hole in the NFL’s story that the league did not see the elevator video that showed former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then fiancée twice in the face.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games prior to the video’s release by TMZ, which sparked further outcry over the light punishment given the juxtaposition against the suspensions of players for performance enhancing drugs as well as recreational drugs. Goodell followed up with an indefinite suspension after the video’s release.

He was already backpedaling.

However, the commissioner’s excuse that the league’s overtures to law enforcement for the video, which he claims were either declined or ignored, is being contradicted now by an AP report that says the league did in fact receive the video and that it was viewed by someone in the NFL’s office.

The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

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On Wednesday morning in an interview with CBS This Morning, Goodell said that no one in his office had seen the video.

Right about now, the debacle over Rice’s punishment and Goodell’s botching of the video’s release has the tough guy commissioner falling over himself to explain what happened. So far, none of his explanations have added up. It’s an embarrassment that has members of the public openly questioning whether he should be fired.

“Well, we certainly didn’t know what was on the tape,” Goodell told CBS This Morning viewers. “But we have been very open and honest. And I have also — from two weeks ago when I acknowledged that we didn’t get this right. That’s my responsibility. And I’m accountable for that.”

The NFL released a statement in response to the AP report: “We have no knowledge of this. We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it.”

It appears Goodell has found himself in a pickle. Either he has misled the public about the league’s knowledge of the video, thereby protecting Rice and his abusive behavior, or the league’s office appears to have serious communication issues that are helping embarrass the commissioner. Choose for yourself which you believe. But the bottom line is the NFL and Goodell have bungled the issue incredibly, starting with the half-hearted attempt to obtain the video, the league’s paltry suspension of Rice, and continuing with a superficial investigation of the league’s knowledge of the video.

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These errors are on Goodell and no one else. How the league corrects this calamity will be of great interest going forward, especially given the cases involving Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers and Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers. Both are accused of domestic violence.

Domestic violence is an issue that the league needs to handle head on and with a commissioner that is trusted to hold perpetrators accountable while maintaining these public figures as the standard for role models in professional sports. That’s his job and no one else’s. Right now, he’s failing. He’s failing the league and he’s failing his owners. That should leave his job up for scrutiny.

Zuri Berry can be reached at zberry@boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @zuriberry and on Google+.

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