CRAWFORD | NFL's Goodell should be good as gone -- but who shoul - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | NFL's Goodell should be good as gone -- but who should be next?

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- In the latest example of the NFL's prominent place in American culture, on a night when President Barack Obama was to give a major policy speech on dealing with the Middle Eastern terrorist group ISIS, both CBS and NBC led their nightly national newscast with a story about the NFL's dealing with Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and a video of him punching his then-fiancee.

That should point to a larger truth: The job of NFL commissioner is not one you ease into. The NFL is perhaps the biggest entertainment entity in the U.S. today -- and definitely the biggest entity when it comes to television. Nine of the ten most-watched television shows in America last season were NFL broadcasts.

And with a salary of $44 million, the job of NFL commissioner is not one in which you can make major mistakes. There's too much at stake. Legal challenges over player safety are growing. The league's constant battle over illegal substances always rests just below the surface. And now, Goodell has fumbled in the area of domestic violence, dishing out a two-game suspension after published reports say his league officials were in possession of  video showing Ray Rice knock his fiancee cold in an Atlantic City casino elevator.

Roger Goodell can say what he wants. But he is as good as gone. NFL owners will realize this is not a story that will diminish. The credibility of the league itself has been damaged, and will continue to suffer as long as Goodell and his lieutenants continue to make awkward excuses for their handling of this.

The source played for the AP a 12-second voice mail from an NFL phone number. The voice on the other end of the line was a female, who said, "You're right. It's terrible."

That about sums it all up.

Except it doesn't clean up the NFL's actions in all this.

Goodell continued to insist on Wednesday that he hadn't seen the tape prior to his actions with Rice. I don't believe anyone at the NFL. Do you believe them? Does anyone? This is the problem for the league, and why this will not end well for Goodell, the former NFL chief operating officer who succeeded Paul Tagliabue as commissioner in 2006.

Goodell already had acknowledged mishandling the matter in a letter to owners in late July, and the latest accusations of the video being in the NFL hands prior to its decision on Rice is likely to be too much for him to overcome.

And frankly, it should be. There's no excuse for the lenient punishment it handed down, which created the widespread perception that the league doesn't care about the rights of women in domestic abuse situations.

Sources told The Washington Post Wednesday that Goodell has no intention of stepping down.

But the National Organization for Women on Wednesday called for his immediate resignation. Its president, Terry O'Neill, said in a statement, "The NFL has lost its way. It doesn't have a Ray Rice problem, it has a violence against women problem. . . . The only workable solution is for Roger Goodell to resign, and for his successor to appoint an independent investigator with full authority to gather factual data about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking within the NFL community, and to recommend real and lasting reforms."

So where can the NFL turn? It needs an instant infusion of credibility. It needs to address this issue and it needs someone with vision who can anticipate other challenges as they begin to come at the league -- whose risk in areas of player safety is not insignificant.

A few names, in no particular order:

1). Condoleeza Rice. The former Secretary of State, who now serves on college football's playoff selection committee, seems a popular option, and the Twitter hashtag #thegoodrice even has begun to pick up a little steam. But she's not without controversy. Outcry over the decision of Rutgers to have her make a commencement speak there led to the scuttling of her talk. Clearly, having the first woman commissioner of the NFL -- or any major league sports organization -- would be a welcome move, especially for women's groups who feel so betrayed by the NFL's actions with Rice and others. But her selection would not be without strong opposition.

2). Mike Slive. The SEC commissioner is one of the most powerful men in college sports, has navigated that league into a new television deal, has expanded its reach nationally with the launch of the SEC network and has clamped down a bit on the outlaw mentality that attended several of its programs. He has a legal background, and has been a forward thinker no matter where he has been in college sports. If not the actual choice, Slive is the kind of outsider that the NFL needs.

3). Adam Silver. That's right. The NBA commissioner has done no wrong in his short time since succeeding David Stern. In fact, how about this? We just make Silver the commissioner of the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball and be done with it. Pay him $100 million and let him do all three. It's unlikely, given the specialized nature of these jobs and his place as a lifetime NBA guy. Still, the NFL needs to find its own Silver, and it needs to do so in the not-too-distant future, or risk more embarrassing questions, and even worse, embarrassing answers from its executives.

One major problem for the league is that most of the qualified people underneath Goodell, who might have been seen as grooming themselves for such a job, may well have ties to the Rice video themselves.

If Goodell thinks he can lay low and let this blow over, I think he's mistaken. The NFL has gotten too big, and there are too many groups who rightfully see this incident as an opportunity to take a major stance on domestic violence.

Come to think of it, the NFL ought to see it that way, too.

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