by John Kass | September 11, 2014 12:03 am
The NFL is all about making billions of dollars a year selling its brand of glitzy gladiatorial violence and power.
The kind of violence and power Ray Rice showed.
Not what Rice showed in a hotel elevator when he punched his wife’s lights out and then dragged her out like a sack of potatoes. The video of the punch is sending spasms of anxiety through the NFL.
I’m talking about the violence on the field, where the destruction of the human body is celebrated as virtue, so that millions of Americans can feel vicarious thrills as we finger our keyboards to play fantasy football.
Unfortunately for the NFL, appeals to testosterone alone weren’t enough.
The boomers are getting old. They don’t drink as much beer or eat as many chips or buy as many muscle cars as they did back in the day.
So a few years ago, just as American moms began to be worried about concussions in youth football and started wondering whether to send their little boys out to bash heads on the weekends, the NFL wised up.
The NFL began targeting a new marketing demographic:
Women and girls.
Samantha Gordon, a 9-year-old girl who scored 35 touchdowns in a boys tackle league — and whose highlight video went viral — was celebrated as a hero by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
He even invited her to his box during the Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
“He thinks she is an inspirational story for football, youth football and the participation of girls in sports,” said an NFL spokesman.
It was artfully done, aimed right at a boy’s vulnerability: If a girl can do it, why can’t you?
And the league began to offer tailored jerseys for the first time to women, who make the decisions about spending in most American households.
But all those marketing strategies are threatened now because the world has been clicking on that video that went public the other day of running back Rice knocking his bride-to-be cold in that Atlantic City hotel elevator.
The NFL’s original punishment was a two-game suspension for Rice, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens. But that was months ago, when all we saw was an earlier video: Rice dragging his now-wife into the hotel hallway, her legs limp, toe dragging. He hit her so hard that he knocked her out of her shoes.
And now, with fans watching a second video in which Rice throws a short left hook that put her on the floor, it’s time for the NFL to consider one more marketing idea to women.
The league should fire NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
He had a chance to resign. He didn’t take it. So fire him immediately.
And replace him with San Francisco 49ers fan and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the first female commissioner of the National Football League.
The idea is going crazy on Twitter under the hashtag #thegoodrice. The Washington Post quipped this week that Condoleezza just might save the NFL.
And in 2002, Rice herself was quoted in The New York Times saying the NFL commissioner’s gig would be her dream job.
So why not start now?
As the former secretary of state, she knows about large bureaucracies that leverage billions of dollars. She’s also quite familiar with corporate back-biting that takes place behind the scenes, as she did some of that herself.
And it’s clear after watching Norah O’Donnell of CBS News interview Goodell that he has to go.
Goodell said he had seen the first video of Rice dragging the woman along the ground. But he said hadn’t seen the second — the one showing that Jake LaMotta left hook, until this week, when his staff came to him “and said there’s new evidence that you need to see.”
Before that, Goodell said, “We had not seen any videotape of what had occurred in the elevator.
“We assumed that there was a video. We asked for a video. But we were never granted that opportunity.”
That is simply not credible.
Historically, the NFL has hired many former FBI agents as corporate security. And the hotel industry wouldn’t deny the NFL that information.
If Goodell had wanted it, he could have seen it. Yet had he seen it, he couldn’t very well have given Ray Rice a measly two-game suspension, though he’s given other players harsher suspensions for other infractions.
Since the second video surfaced, the NFL has bounced Rice from the league indefinitely. Although Goodell says he might be reinstated if the league determines he has taken the proper steps.
“We were very open and honest,” Goodell said. “We didn’t get this right. That’s my responsibility and I’m accountable for that.”
Open and honest? That should be the name of a bar outside a Las Vegas sports book, with pay phones and a mean bartender named Lou who knows a guy at the pawn shop.
All this tells me that Goodell doesn’t know about Occam’s razor.
It’s named for a learned monk in the 1300s who studied logic. The friar determined that if there are two explanations for something, the simpler explanation is best.
The razor in Occam’s razor isn’t a blade for tonsuring a friar’s scalp. It’s an idea, about cutting away that which is unnecessary, like Goodell’s nonsense.
What should the NFL have determined when a woman was dragged from an elevator after it was known that violence was involved?
That Ray Rice put her there with his fist.
Goodell has to go.
(John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune who also hosts a radio show on WLS-AM. His e-mail address is [email protected], and his Twitter handle is @john_kass.)
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