- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 11, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Roger Goodell has not been fired as commissioner of the National Football League because, as Tony Soprano would say, “He’s a good earner.”

Really, the only justification for Goodell keeping his job in the wake of his handling of the suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice — since released by the team following the release of the video showing Rice knocking out his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City casino elevator — and the subsequent questions that followed the release of the tape, is that the NFL is rolling in dough.

Why else would this guy — the face of your business, who can’t even be seen in public now (he canceled an appearance Wednesday night at an event honoring Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson) — keep his job?

His shaky explanation that he hadn’t previously seen the video that TMZ released showing Rice coldly knocking out his now-wife Janay was called into question following an Associated Press report that a law enforcement official said he sent the video to an NFL executive five months ago.

This explains Goodell’s qualifier — “to the best of my knowledge” — that no one under his auspices had seen the video when he initially gave Rice a two-game suspension for the attack, even though a police report said that Rice had knocked her out in the elevator.

This was his plausible deniability.

Nobody believes him, though. He has the credibility of Vince McMahon.

Because nobody believes him, the NFL has now reached out for an independent investigator, hiring former FBI director Robert Mueller to probe the handling of the Rice investigation — in other words, to absolve Goodell of any wrongdoing worthy enough to force him out of his job.

Let’s face it, the NFL didn’t hire Mueller to conduct an “independent” investigation to get rid of Goodell. They hired him to absolve Goodell.

Mueller now works for the law firm of WilmerHale, which does business with the league. Baltimore Ravens president Dick Cass was the former head of corporate practice for WilmerHale.

Independent? This investigation will do little to restore the credibility of the office of the NFL commissioner as long as Roger Goodell sits in that office.

He is damaged goods, and nothing is going to change that.

Meanwhile, the Ray Rice domestic violence story isn’t going to fade, as they hope, as football continues to be played. It will be front and center — particularly in the month of October.

That is when the NFL opens up its heart to women with pink ribbons and declarations of love, respect and compassion — breast cancer awareness month.

Now you call it Ray Rice month.

Ironically, while October is breast cancer awareness month, it is also domestic violence awareness month. Several years ago, the NFL chose to officially get behind breast cancer awareness instead of domestic violence awareness.

Now that decision is out of their hands.

The NFL proclamations of caring about their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters will ring hollow in the wake of the league’s pathetic handling not just of the Ray Rice case, but all domestic violence incidents, including the two pending now before them — Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald.

We will see the public service announcements about the NFL’s commitment to women, and all we will think about is Ray Rice.

A good and well-intentioned campaign will now be tarnished by the NFL’s insensitivity to women.

“People don’t expect to see that when they turn on the television they realize the impact it has and they know these players are impacted by breast cancer also — their wives, their sisters, their mothers,” Goodell told Greta Van Susteren in a 2011 interview. “We are all affected by it and that’s what I we believe we can make a difference.”

This is what is particularly troubling about everyone involved in the Ray Rice controversy — Goodell, his fellow owners, Ravens officials. They all have wives, sisters, mothers and daughters.

How can you be so tone deaf to a punishment that should have fit the crime committed on that Atlantic City casino elevator and yet talk about wives, sisters and mothers?

How can the NFL be so tone deaf to the lack of public confidence in Roger Goodell?

How? Because, to borrow a Johnny Ola line from Godfather II, Roger Goodell always makes money for his partners.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com.

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