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Goodell Takes A Hit

December 4, 2014

Critics of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell are saying that he has this coming to him. ‘This’ being the damning 17-page report on Ray Rice’s appeal that came from former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones last week

Basically, Judge Jones made the commissioner of the NFL seem so weak and small in how he handled the Ray Rice case. After testimony and reviewing the evidence, Judge Jones reinstated Rice immediately while announcing to the sports world that Goodell was less than truthful.

Initially, Goodell suspended Rice for two games after his domestic violence incident with his fiance. Then, after TMZ aired a video of the exchange between Rice and the woman who later became his wife, Goodell indefinitely suspended Rice. Goodell said Rice “misled” him in June before the first penalty was announced, and that’s why he gave himself a do-over and lowered the boom.

Judge Jones went over the evidence, including Goodell’s notes, and stated that she was not persuaded that Rice lied to or misled the NFL at any time. She stated that the indefinite suspension was an abuse of discretion and must be vacated.

The report gets worse for Goodell. Jones’ report said Goodell called Rice and made it clear to him the terms of his punishment wouldn’t change.

But when the second video surfaced, showing the very violence any reasonable witness would’ve imagined by watching the first video, Goodell knew he was in deep, deep trouble.

The report said he immediately gathered his aides, that they all checked their notes and that they “made sure all of us had the same recollection of what [Rice] said on June 16.”

Roger Goodell

Goodell and other league officials present in that meeting decided, according to the report, “that Rice misled them by stating that he had slapped rather than hit Mrs. Rice in the elevator and that he tried to minimize the force of his blow by claiming she knocked herself out by falling into the elevator handrail.”

But in reviewing notes made by Goodell and those officials, Jones didn’t find enough evidence to back up those claims. She said that the “vagueness” of Goodell’s recollection “further diminished” his testimony, and that the union official present at the June meeting, Heather McPhee, provided more detailed notes directly quoting Rice as saying, “And then I hit her.” McPhee was also “emphatic” that Rice never said his fiancée had “knocked herself out.”

On page nine of her ruling, Jones wrote: “The sole issue in this matter is whether what Rice told the Commissioner and other league representatives about the assault at their June 16, 2014, meeting was ‘a starkly different sequence of events’ than what was captured on the ‘inside-the-elevator’ video. It was not.”

Game, set, match. Ray Rice testified that he physically demonstrated to Goodell how he’d struck with his vicious left hook the woman he would marry, and Jones found him credible. More credible than she found Goodell who gave Rice such a meager penalty in the first place.

I have written in these pages that I was not sure Goodell ever wanted the truth. If Goodell was interested in the truth five months ago, he never would’ve met with Rice in the company of the woman he attacked. The NFL didn’t want to know all the details of how Palmer was knocked cold in that Atlantic City elevator, and it’s all there in black and white. On page 10 of the report, the victim speaks of Rice’s meeting in June with Goodell and says nobody from the league “had asked [Rice] for specific details about what went on in the elevator.”

And, the question of why did the NFL not seek out the tape that TMZ got? Everyone knew there was a camera in the elevator. “At the time of the June 16 meeting,” reads page four of the Jones report, “the NFL also knew that there was a camera inside the elevator and thought it was likely that there was a video from that camera. Various sources, including NFL security, had reported the existence of such a video.”

If the league didn’t see that second video, it just means the league didn’t want to see that second video. And if Goodell is telling the truth on this front, so what? He saw the first video. What in the world did he think happened inside the elevator to leave Palmer in that state?

As it turns out, Rice told him pretty much exactly what happened that night before he was benched for two games and another week’s pay. Goodell’s first instinct was to treat this domestic violence offense as something of a speeding ticket, and only when the case blew up on him did he change course to cover his butt.

Barbara S. Jones got it right. The former federal judge found that one major figure in this case did do some misleading and changed his story, and his name wasn’t Ray Rice.

Hornets Are Digressing

As I write this, the Charlotte Hornets, despite playing 18 games, have won just one more game then the lowly Carolina Panthers. Yes, professional sports in Charlotte has digressed. The Hornets are off to a 4-14 start while the Panthers have been stuck on three wins forever it seems.

This was supposed to be the year the Hornets took another step and became one of the top four teams in the weaker Eastern Conference. They finished strong last season to earn a playoff berth. They made a splash in the free agent market by signing Lance Stephenson away from the Indiana Pacers. He was supposed to be the missing piece in the team’s only weakness, scoring the basketball.

Instead, Stephenson has made things worse. Basically, he cannot shoot. Charlotte ranks 27th in points per 100 possessions, and Stephenson has been a missed shot waiting to happen.

Ravens’ Ray Rice

He’s shooting just 37 percent overall and a nasty 7-of-38 from deep. In the few games I have watched, he passes up open 3s, choosing instead to show us a variety of fancy crossover dribbles and behind-the-back moves that go nowhere. At times, Stephenson’s drive-and-dish game has opened up good looks for teammates, but his shooting woes have outweighed his creativity. Opposing defenses know that Stephenson won’t shoot from deep, so they back away from him when he doesn’t have the ball. Charlotte’s offense is in a clogged mess, leaving star center Al Jefferson and the team’s ball handlers a maze to navigate through.

Stephenson is an easy scapegoat, and that’s his own doing. His body language is terrible, and you have to know that hurts team morale. He pouts when he doesn’t get the ball and looks skyward as if his teammates have wronged him.

What is puzzling this season is that Charlotte’s defense has disappeared. Charlotte ranks 25th in points allowed per possession after shocking everyone with a sixth-place finish last season.

The Hornets last season were a nice story, but they were really just an average team with limited upside. It looks like, again, that the Hornets will be involved in the draft lottery. Or perhaps a trade this winter could make a difference. After all, it is the NBA East and it does not take much to make the playoffs in the East.











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