NEW YORK — As an uproar grows over a video showing star player Ray Rice’s ferocious blow on his now-wife, calls for the firing of the NFL’s leader are getting louder.
An increasing number of critics think NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the man in charge of disciplining the star player, should be next.
“The NFL has lost its way. It doesn’t have a Ray Rice problem; it has a violence against women problem,” said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. “The NFL sets the example for college, high school, middle school and even elementary school football programs. And the example it is setting right now is simply unacceptable. New leadership must come in with a specific charge to transform the culture of violence against women that pervades the NFL.”
Goodell told CBS News on Tuesday that he was sickened by what he saw on a newly released video that showed Rice knocking out his now-wife with a ferocious punch.
However, he said, Monday was the first time he had seen the full scope of the February incident.
He also deflected criticism of his handling of Rice’s case and his initial lenient penalty for the Baltimore Ravens running back’s act.
“What we saw in the first videotape was troubling to us in and of itself,” Goodell said, referring to another video that surfaced in February after the incident, showing Rice dragging his fiancee, Janay, out of the elevator. “But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear. It was extremely graphic and it was sickening.”
After the footage from inside an Atlantic City, N.J., hotel elevator surfaced, Goodell suspended the veteran player indefinitely.
The NFL commissioner told CBS on Wednesday that the league asked for the videotape on several occasions but was told that it was something it would not be granted access to.
“I understand that there may be legal restrictions on them sharing that with us,” he said.
Goodell also told CBS that it might be possible for Rice to play in the NFL again.
“I don’t rule that out, but he would have to make sure that we are fully confident that he is addressing this issue clearly, he has paid a price for the actions he’s already taken,” he said.
The release of the latest video made sports commentators even angrier about the league’s botched reaction to the incident — an initial two-game suspension for Rice — something Goodell has admitted he didn’t get right.
Outspoken ESPN personality Keith Olbermann called Goodell an “enabler of men who beat women” and demanded the commissioner resign or be fired.
“Mr. Goodell’s ineptitude has not merely rendered this football season meaningless and irrelevant by contrast, it has not only reduced supporting or watching football to a distasteful, even a disrespectful act, but most importantly it has comforted the violent and afflicted the victim,” Olbermann opined Monday.
San Francisco Chronicle sport columnist Ann Killion agreed.
“Roger Goodell should follow Rice out the door — his leadership has no integrity and no longer can be trusted by the public. He should resign,” she wrote.
Goodell told CBS that the league assumed an in-elevator video existed and asked law enforcement for it, but was never given the opportunity to view it. It wasn’t until Monday, when he arrived at the office and staffers told him there was something he needed to see, that he viewed the video.
Former NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels, in a column posted on Football by Football, blamed Goodell for a colossal failure but didn’t call for him to step down.
Goodell has admitted that his initial two-game suspension of Rice was the wrong decision. He said so when he announced a new policy penalizing acts of violence like domestic abuse or sexual assault.
The new rules meant a minimum six-game ban, but the penalty didn’t apply to Rice’s case.
The policy was greeted with commendations, but the fact that Rice was going to be back in uniform soon, even though the league knew he had knocked Janay Rice unconscious, drew loud condemnation.
Goodell told CBS that he wasn’t going to step down and that criticism was an everyday part of the position.
Did the NFL do what it could to see the video?
While the league said it never saw the new video until it was posted online, many question whether the NFL tried hard enough to view it before Monday.
TMZ ran a story Tuesday, citing anonymous sources, saying the NFL never asked the casino for the video, and had it asked, the video would have been handed over.
Reacting to that report, NFL officials said they asked state police for evidence related to the case, but authorities did not give the video to them.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said that security for Atlantic City casinos is handled by New Jersey State Police.
“We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator,” he said. “That video was not made available to us.”
In June, Goodell met with Rice and his wife at the NFL office in New York to hear their versions of what happened. Janay Rice reportedly sat beside her husband as she described what happened.
After hearing that and taking another month to evaluate the evidence the league had gathered, Goodell suspended Rice for two games of a 16-game season. He also was to forfeit a third game’s pay — reportedly a total of $529,411.
Now Rice’s career appears all but over. After the in-elevator video surfaced, he was released by the Ravens and was suspended indefinitely by the NFL. He’s not even eligible to play in the Canadian Football League, which honors NFL bans.