The NFL wants us to think this whole awful ordeal will change its attitudes toward domestic violence. Now the league has to prove it.
The Baltimore Ravens just cut Ray Rice, and most people can agree that the Ravens did the right thing, though only after doing the wrong thing, and the wrong thing again, a few more wrong things, and … well, the Ravens have been flogged pretty well for this whole episode, and will be flogged again.
But questions remain.
What did Roger Goodell know, and when did he know it? Did he see the TMZ video of Rice decking his fiancée before it showed up Monday? If he did, why did he suspend Rice for two games? Why did the Ravens stand by Rice until the public saw the video, even letting Palmer stand before the media, at a Ravens press conference, and accept some responsibility for getting knocked out?
And if Goodell didn’t see the video, why not? How come TMZ could get a copy but Goodell couldn’t? Was there a line at the video store? Major League Baseball has gone to great lengths to nab two potential Hall of Fame players, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, for taking performance-enhancing drugs. Couldn’t Goodell go to considerably shorter lengths to investigate this?
Why didn’t the Rice case go to trial? There was video of the man punching his wife in a casino elevator, knocking her out. What does that say about our legal system that Rice avoided trial completely?
And why was Rice cut? Was it because he lied to everybody involved, or because the video embarrassed the Ravens into doing something?
And then the big one: What happens next? The NFL wants us to think this whole awful ordeal will change its attitudes toward domestic violence.
Now the league has to prove it.
To borrow a baseball metaphor, which will just annoy the NFL more: Greg Hardy, step up to the plate.
Hardy, the Panthers star defensive end -- one of the best defensive players in the league -- was found guilty in July of assaulting his former girlfriend and threatening to kill her. His attorneys have appealed, and he will face a jury trial in November. The Panthers are taking a wait-and-pray approach to the whole thing, but after the public just forced Ray Rice off the Ravens roster, how can Carolina keep playing Hardy?
Your daily reading from the Charlotte Observer:
Hardy, [Nicole] Holder [Hardy’s former girlfriend] said, flung her from the bed, threw her into a bathtub, then tossed her on a futon covered with rifles. Holder said Hardy ripped a necklace he had given her off her neck, threw it into a toilet and slammed the lid on her arm when she tried to fish it out.
The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Hardy dragged her by the hair room to room, she said, before putting his hands around her throat.
“He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me,” said Holder, 24, who said she used to live with Hardy.
“I was so scared I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said, ‘Just do it. Kill me.’”
Hardy’s version is that Holder swung at him, threatened to kill herself, then threw herself into the bathtub. Then, evidently, she made up this story about him.
Hardy will have another day in court. If he is guilty, then what he did is just as bad as what Rice did. You could argue it’s worse, because his rage lasted longer, though frankly comparing the lousiness of these incidents makes me want to take a shower.
The point is, suppose Hardy loses his appeal. If Ray Rice is out of football indefinitely, why would Greg Hardy get to stick around?
Keep in mind, the man who has made the biggest noise about the NFL and its personal conduct policy is Goodell. He is the one who said he wouldn’t tolerate misbehavior, who issued suspensions left, right and up the middle in his first years as NFL commissioner, who peppered the New Orleans Saints with penalties for their bounty scandal, only to get rebuked by his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue.
This is what Goodell wanted. He wanted the power to clean up his league. The public has spoken: He has the power, and he hasn’t used it properly. So what does he do now?
It should start with a press conference, and an admission that he blew this. Goodell already admitted that once, in an open letter to owners. But now we have seen the video of Rice punching Palmer. Goodell owes his customers an explanation for whether he saw the video before -- and if not, why not?
I mean, it’s not like Goodell wanted to look like he didn’t care about domestic violence. The issue is not Goodell’s values. It’s his actions. It’s his assumption that what he does is right because he does it. So Goodell can explain why he did what he did if he wants. But mostly, he needs to just admit he messed up, say he has learned from it and promise that he won’t make the same mistake again. No excuses, no blame-shifting. And then he can turn his eyes to Charlotte, Greg Hardy, and his biggest test as commissioner.