An Open Letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell

Dear Roger,

First, let’s dispense with the formalities, shall we? I think I can call you Roger going forward. You seem like the kind of pompous blowhard who loves to go by Mr. Goddell. I’m not giving you that kind of benefit, not right now. Because as far as I’m concerned, whatever cachet you once earned, you fucking blew it.

Look, I realize right now you’re neck-deep in planning a full PR blitz trying to cover the NFL’s collective ass in the shady and despicable way you and the league handled the Ray Rice mess. It was bad enough you insulted every thinking fan out there by handing Rice a mere two-game ban after surveillance footage had been released of Rice dragging his unconscious then-girlfriend (and now-wife) from an Atlantic City hotel elevator, after having beaten her. For a league whose fan base has grown more popular with women over the past decade, the two-game suspension sent a mixed message, didn’tcha think?

Yesterday, TMZ gunned for a Pulitzer Prize and got a hold of the complete surveillance video, showing Rice beating up his girlfriend. Rice was immediately cut by the Baltimore Ravens, and you, Roger, announced that Rice was “suspended indefinitely.”

Bad enough that the NFL now has to save face and do something it should have done months ago, but then it was revealed, perhaps as a shock to absolutely no one, that the NFL not only knew this surveillance footage existed, but that it had seen the footage, knew what Rice had done, and took little action against Rice.

Roger, I’ll cut to the chase here: your actions over the past several months, in how clumsily you’ve handled punishing Ray Rice – and while we’re at, several other NFL players who have also been arrested for domestic violence disturbances – have been nothing short of reprehensible. No amount of back-peddling can repair the damage you’ve brought upon both the NFL and to yourself.

There’s only thing thing you can do right now to make things right: resign as commissioner of the National Football League.

When you took the Office of the Commissioner many years ago, you came in on a “get tough” mandate. Your predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, let’s face it, was pretty soft on a lot of players who’d run afoul of the law. Slaps on the wrist, but no real consistent policy against the players who were breaking the law, not just once, but repeatedly. You became Commissioner and declared that you were going to hold all players accountable for their behavior off the field; they were expected to conduct themselves as model citizens, and if they weren’t to comply, they would receive punishments that befit the severity of their crimes. Your mandate was immediately brought to its sternest test when it came to light that one of the league’s biggest stars, Michael Vick, was operating a dog-fighting ring. While some would argue that the punishment you handed Vick was harsh, I applauded you for taking swift and decisive action. Were you to dither in your decision, this “mandate” you spoke of would have been mere words. Instead, the league and its players took note: you meant every word, and if players were going to act like irresponsible fucktards off the field, then they would be punished like the irresponsible fucktards they were.

Which is why, flash forward seven years later, the lack of consistency you’ve demonstrated recently has been baffling at best, infuriating at worst, and frankly insulting. The message you’ve sent is this: dog killing gets you a harsh sentence, but (until yesterday) beating up your girlfriend or wife gets you a slap on the wrist.

You see, Roger, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t talk about fostering a family atmosphere, yet turning a blind eye to the barbarism that’s taking place not just on the field, but off it as well. You can’t talk about making a concerted effort to make the NFL more attractive to women, and be a major contributor to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, all the while giving a slap on the wrist to players who beat the ever-living shit out of their wives and girlfriends. You can’t preach about a safe environment when you’re given safe haven for abusers in your league, who in turn become role models for others who might think, “Well, if Ray Rice can get away with beating up with his girlfriend…” You can’t talk about holding players to higher standards when you won’t hold yourself to higher standards. You’re basically throwing your hands up in the air and saying, “Well, football’s a violent sport, full of violent players, so shit happens, I can’t be held responsible if some stupid loses his cool and beats up his girlfriend.”

Uh, yeah, you can. You need, no, I take that back, you should be held accountable for the actions of the employees of the National Football League. After all, you’re the head cheese. Nothing happens unless you say it happens, and if you say it happens, then it happens. Unfortunately, your actions regarding Ray Rice, months ago and yesterday, speak massive volumes about your character.

(And I’m not even going to discuss your stance on concussions. Your repeated denials that blows to the head don’t cause concussions are like climate change deniers shouting to anyone who’ll give them credence that wild temperature fluctuations are just normal is simply fucktard science on your part, and a shameless attempt to hide what everyone already knows, so why fucking deny it?)

And don’t give me this horseshit about “football’s a violent sport.” Watched hockey lately? That’s another sport that’s built on pure aggression, but the National Hockey League doesn’t fuck around when it comes to its Code of Conduct. Gary Bettman may be about as useless as a nun wielding a strap-on dildo when it comes to being a commissioner, but his office handles player conduct issues with an iron fist. Players are held accountable. As in, “do something that goes in direct violation with what the league finds favorable, like domestic violence, and you’re done for. Finished.” Leave the aggression on the ice. Off the ice, toe the fucking line, jack.

But you just can’t do it, can you? You can’t make your players toe the line. Because you’re a gutless coward who’s more concerned about protecting the billions in revenue (hence your shameful “there’s no such link between concussions and brain damage” stance) than you are about protecting the integrity and the image of your league. Which is why your position right now as Commissioner of the National Football League is beyond untenable right now. If you really and truly care about the integrity of the league, do the right thing and fall on your sword. The truth about what you knew about what Ray Rice did, and the lengths you took to, let’s be real, protect this scumbag, will only come back to destroy you. The truth won’t tarnish your reputation; it will destroy it.

Which is why you need to resign immediately, for the sake of the National Football League, for the sake of the fans, for the sake of battered women everywhere.

But, really, you need to resign because you’re an asshole, and the damage you’ve caused for being a blind, enabling asshole is more than enough than the National Football League and its fans deserve to endure.

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