That Goodell is an unduly vain commissioner, and a self-serving one with his eye on some further prize, has always been obvious. That he obfuscates and evades on tough issues unless they are convenient for him, that his convictions are highly selective and so is his enforcement, has never been more apparent. On Monday morning, with the surfacing of that video, Goodell’s nature became totally clear. The NFL claims in a statement that no one in the league office had previously seen the tape. That is almost surely not the truth, unless the NFL wanted it that way. This is a league that works with Homeland Security, confers with the Drug Enforcement Agency, collaborates with law enforcement and has its own highly equipped and secretive private security arm. You’re telling me it couldn’t get a hold of a grainy tape from an Atlantic City casino elevator? But TMZ could?
If NFL executives and Baltimore Ravens staff had never seen that tape before, there are only two reasons: willful blindness, and the determination to maintain plausible deniability. Two NFL analysts with reputations for impeccable sources, Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Chris Mortensen of ESPN, were told months ago the league had to have seen the tape. Ray Rice’s own attorney had a copy of it. It simply defies belief that league and team officials couldn’t have seen it if they wanted to.
Magary on why your commissioner sucks:
But we don’t need that evidence when common sense can fill in the gaps. The NFL had every chance to look at the tape ages ago. There was NO good reason to deliberately avoid it. Consider:
- Roger Goodell really likes suspending players, as a way of consolidating power in his office.
- Roger Goodell really likes making STRONG statements, as a way of ginning up good public relations.
- Anyone investigating the incident is going to want to see the tape in order to to nail down every last detail.
- The tape was bound to surface at some point anyway. Lots of people had seen it. Lots of people had talked to people who’d seen it. A random Deadspin tipster, emailing us shortly after the arrest, knew what was on the tape, down to the detail—confirmed today by the AP—that Palmer had spit on Rice.
- Legally speaking, nothing good can come from avoiding the tape.
- You could probably guess what was on the tape, given that the other tape shows Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out into the casino lobby.
Now, Roger Goodell is a big stupid meathead of a guy, but even he isn’t stupid enough to say, “Hey, let’s be shady and bury this thing forever just to protect Ray Rice MWAHAHAHAHAHA.” No way, man. They saw the tape. Of course they saw the tape. They knew what was on there, and they heard Janay Rice state her case in person with her hubby and Goodell and four other high-ranking league and Ravens assholes right there, and they thought, sure, two games sounds all right. And that logic filtered through the league office, down to the Ravens, out to national media hand puppets like Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, and it hardened into the conventional wisdom. Everything is easily explained if you accept that these are all a bunch of stupid men who think very much alike.
As of right now, the NFL is doing everything in its power to make you believe that it would never be so insensitive, but it’s failing miserably. No lifetime suspension or display of league righteousness will make up for the glaring lack of anger over the past few months. There was no good reason not to watch that tape. They saw it, and they thought little of it, and now they’re praying you don’t notice.
In conclusion, let’s move right along and drive a dumptruck of taxpayer money up to Dan Snyder’s house! To replace a stadium that’s not 20 years old!
…and, yes, it’s worth noting that multiple well-connected not only said that the NFL had seen the contents of the tape, but the league sources accurately described its contents at the time. The NFL saw the tape; saying otherwise is just a massive intelligence-insulting operation.