The NFL under pressure: Ray Rice scandal calls leadership into question

Integrity and Suspicion in the NFL

Derek Baker

In early morning hours of February 15, 2014, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was seen dragging his then-fiancé out of an elevator at the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Atlantic City police arrested both Ray and Palmer who claimed that they hit each other. Both Rice and Palmer were charged with assault.

Four days later, TMZ released the security camera footage of Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of the elevator. Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh spoke on the issue a few days later saying “There are a lot of facts and a process that has to be worked through in anything like this. There are a lot of question marks. But Ray's character, you guys know his character. So you start with that."

On May 1, Rice plead not guilty to aggravated assault. Later that month, the Ravens held a press conference with Ray and Palmer.  "I failed miserably, but I wouldn't call myself a failure because I'm working my way back up," Rice said. "I know many of my supporters, sponsors, don't want to be in partnership with me. That's my fault. I take full responsibility for that. One thing I do know is that I'm working every day to be a better father, a better husband and just a better role model."

On July 24, the NFL announced a two game suspension for Rice starting August 30. It would all come tumbling down less than a month later.

September 8, TMZ released the surveillance footage from inside the elevator. The video shows Rice punching Palmer with a violent and malicious left hook. It didn’t take long for the Ravens to terminate Rice’s contract, and then NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Rice is indefinitely suspended from the NFL. The NFL claims they had never seen the footage until that day. According to TMZ, the NFL never contacted the casino in hopes of viewing the footage. The next day, the Associated Press reported that a law enforcement official sent a copy of the elevator video to the NFL office and was informed that the video was received on April 9, long before Rice’s punishment was enforced.

Why is this issue so important? Why should both football fans, and those who aren’t, care?

First, if the video was indeed not seen by Goodell, why wouldn’t he find it imperative to get all the information he can about one of the league's premier players. How could TMZ acquire such valuable evidence and not Rice’s employer? Why did this anonymous law enforcement official receive confirmation that the video was received? It’s obvious somebody at the league office saw it.

Second, when Goodell announced his punishment for Rice, had he seen the video? If so how could he only suspend Rice? Some speculate that Goodell had seen the video and it was only when the public saw it that he decided to suspend Rice indefinitely from the NFL. If that’s the case, we have a problem. The league needs to punish players for violating league rules whether the public has access to the details or not. Integrity is important in a leader and Goodell’s is in question.

The biggest issue is that this isn’t the only case of domestic violence in the league. Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers and Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers have also found themselves in this type of trouble. These are role models for kids across America and should act like such both on and off the field.

Derek is senior studying business sport management.