Apparently, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is still a bit sensitive about the public criticism of his work and the work of his office in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal. According to CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco, Goodell was scheduled to attend the Sunday Night Football opening of Levi's Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers' new home turf, but a source told Maiocco that the appearance has been cancelled.
“I think he’s scheduled to come,” 49ers president Paraag Marathe told NBC Bay Area’s Raj Mathai on Friday. “He usually comes to most stadium openings, so I expect him to.”
Since the video showing Rice striking his then-fiancée and now-wife Janay was made public by TMZ on Monday, Goodell's capricious punishment in that matter (two games originally, then a reactionary revision to the NFL's domestic violence policy, and eventually an indefinite suspension for Rice and his release from the Ravens when all was said and done) has put him in the firing line of everyone from current NFL players to the National Organization for Women.
Goodell has made just one public appearance since the scandal broke -- a hastily-arranged interview with CBS's Norah O'Donnell in which he insisted that he had not seen the video of Rice punching his fiancée before the first suspension was handed out.
"We were not granted that," Goodell said of the video. "We were told that was not something we would have access to. On multiple occasions, we asked for it. And on multiple occasions we were told no. I understand that there may be legal restrictions on them sharing that with us. And we've heard that from attorneys general and former attorneys general."
But then, a source told the Associated Press that the video had been made available to NFL personnel, and several other sources told the ESPN show Outside the Lines that Rice told Goodell that he had hit his fiancée when the two men met. In any case, the events of the past week have undermined the public trust in the NFL to a nearly unprecedented degree. On Wednesday, Goodell asked Giants co-owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II to oversee an independent investigation led by former FBI director Robert Mueller III. For several reasons, many are questioning the impartiality of this investigation as well -- it appears that at this point, Goodell can't do anything right in the court of public opinion.
The 49ers have their own complications in this regard, of course. On Aug. 31, defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested on felony domestic violence changes after he was accused of hitting his pregnant girlfriend. Because McDonald has not yet been officially charged, and has thus not yet been found guilty of anything, the 49ers have said that they will let due process play out in this case.
"We’ve got a collective bargaining agreement in place that makes it difficult for the team to take an action, the league to take an action, etc.," 49ers CEO Jed York said this week. "I think we need to set any negotiating aside, and sit down and figure out — is there a better way through collective bargaining, through everything, to look at domestic violence? And we have to understand that each case is its own separate case. Ray McDonald is not Ray Rice, and if there's another case it's not the same as any previous case. Each case is its own individual entity, and I think as a society we have a tendency to say, 'You didn't do it right with Ray Rice right away, so you need to overdo it with Ray McDonald,' or whoever else it is. I don't believe that that’s the country we live in."
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has said multiple times that he and his team take a zero-tolerance stance against domestic violence, but if McDonald is activated for tonight's game against the Chicago Bears, right or not, it will certainly look otherwise. And it's clear that Roger Goodell wants no part of the firestorm that he did more to create than anybody else.