Sports

DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Roger Goodell and NFL owe us some straight answers

If the Ray Rice/video crisis gets any worse, it could be unsurvivable for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.  AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

Seth Wenig /AP file photo

If the Ray Rice/video crisis gets any worse, it could be unsurvivable for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

The NFL is now in full-blown Watergate cover-up mode, and commissioner Roger Goodell is a modern-day Richard Nixon.

Does Goodell resign, raise his arms in a Nixonian victory salute, and flee in a helicopter from the rooftop of NFL headquarters in Manhattan? Or are we perhaps overreacting?

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The Ray Rice Domestic Violence Scandal changes every hour, and it’s increasingly possible that it might be unsurvivable for the mighty commissioner of our most popular league.

Goodell is either lying or he is incompetent and has lost control of his office. Neither is acceptable for the NFL boss who was paid $44 million last year.

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The Associated Press was the latest media outlet to napalm NFL headquarters late Wednesday afternoon. Less than 24 hours after CBS aired a Goodell interview in which the Commish maintained that no one in the league office (“to the best of my knowledge”) had seen the damning Rice assault video before Monday, the AP said it had proof of a law enforcement official sending the video to an NFL employee in April.

The AP reported there is a 12-second recording in which an NFL employee acknowledges receiving the video and says, “You’re right. It’s terrible.’’

Before Wednesday’s dinner hour, the league cranked out a response stating that the NFL had no knowledge of the video delivery, but would “look into it.’’

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Swell. Last time the league looked into this matter back in July, it broomed damning evidence and protected the Baltimore Ravens and Rice by slapping him with a two-game suspension.

Forced to react, Goodell announced late Wednesday night that former FBI director Robert S. Mueller will investigate the league’s handling of the Rice case.

The League of Coverup and Television Partnership resumes play Thursday night when the Steelers meet the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in beautiful downtown Baltimore.

It’s an unfortunate coincidence that the first game after the NFL’s Domestic Violence Disgrace is in the stadium that Rice called home for the last six seasons. If not for TMZ releasing elevator video of Rice punching his wife in the head while they were at an Atlantic City casino last February, Rice would be finishing up his two-game suspension Thursday night and eligible to rejoin the team Friday.

Thursday’s game will be televised by CBS, which is a critical component any time you are trying to get the truth out of the paranoid/protective NFL. CBS and the NFL are practically one and the same.

They take care of one another. CBS will never do anything to expose or damage the precious shield of the NFL. Goodell chose “The CBS Evening News” for his only broadcast to date. When Patriots owner Bob Kraft went public to defend Goodell’s “excellent” response, Kraft chose to appear on “The CBS Morning News.”

Kraft is on the board of Viacom, which owned CBS until 2006. CBS president Les Moonves has spent almost as much time at Gillette Stadium as Gil Santos has. And don’t forget that the hub of Patriot Place is CBS Scene, which is the backdrop for Channel 4’s embarrassing Patriots infomercials every week.

In the wake of multiple organizations fumbling after Rice’s assault, it would be nice if Goodell took questions from all media before Thursday night’s game, but that’s probably asking too much. The commissioner and the NFL owners prefer to deal in statements and hand-picked broadcast interviews with their partners.

Not good enough. A nation that supports the NFL to the tune of $9 billion deserves some answers. Folks who give the NFL astronomical ratings deserve some truth and disclosure. Not nuanced statements. Not interviews with television partners. As the NFL and the Ravens attempt to cover their butts, we’d like to hear Goodell and the Ravens owner answer a few questions.

For instance, how is it possible that the league didn’t demand to see the elevator tape? Let’s have no more nonsense about “dealing with law enforcement’’ or the legality of requesting the video from the casino.

This is a league that is supposed to know everything about what is going on with its players (let’s not even get started with Aaron Hernandez and the Patriots). The NFL and its teams hire former FBI personnel and police officials. The league works with Homeland Security to prepare for its Super Bowl.

At Gillette Stadium, media folk report to “security command” and are videotaped while we are asking Bill Belichick questions. Unlike the NBA, the NHL, and Major League Baseball, there is no universal media pass in the NFL. The league hands out individual registered passes for each game. They want to know who is there.

And yet they don’t work hard to procure a video that would explain why Janay Rice was unconscious when the elevator doors opened in the casino? The tape was supplied to Ray Rice’s own lawyer! And Roger Goodell’s security army can’t get it? Or worse — they get the tape and bury it because it will reflect poorly on the Shield, the Ravens, and Ray Rice?

What did Ray and Janay Rice tell Goodell when they met him in his office before the two-game suspension was levied? What was so “ambiguous”? And why was Janay Rice allowed (required?) to explain the episode while in the company of the man who delivered the punch?

It would be nice to hear someone from the Ravens answer the same questions. Why did they believe everything the Rices told them about the encounter? Why did they publicly embrace their spouse-batterer, while promoting a quote from Janay Rice in which she apologized for her “role” in getting knocked out?

Across the land, NFL owners are circling the wagons to preserve their franchises (average worth: $1.43 billion). Kraft’s CBS appearance was the usual love-fest, prompting this tweet from Sports Illustrated media columnist Richard Deitsch: “CBS Kissing Robert Kraft’s butt: a tradition like no other.’’

Referencing Goodell’s mea culpa over the initial two-game wrist-slap and subsequent restructuring of the league’s domestic violence policies, Kraft said, “The way he’s handled this situation itself . . . I thought was excellent.’’

In discussing the league’s $250 million deal with the network, a CBS graphic described the Patriots owner as a “Master Kraftsman.’’

What timing.

Better Kraft should explain why he embraced and entertained known wife-beater Floyd Mayweather in a Georgia Dome private box when the Patriots played in Atlanta last September. Mayweather has already come out and stated that the punishments levied at Rice this week are too harsh.

The NFL will always protect and preserve the Shield. It’s the Golden Rule. Players will keep playing and fans will keep watching. Next month there will be a lot of pink uniform trimmings as the league promotes its Fight Breast Cancer campaign.

Swell. Just don’t believe anything you hear or read when the commissioner and owners issue statements or engage in interviews with friendly partners who are sharing the infinite pot of gridiron gold.

The walls are closing in on Roger Goodell. It’s time for some answers from some folks who are not part of the NFL family.

Related coverage:

Dan Shaughnessy: In Ray Rice case, one failure after another

In wake of Ray Rice case, NFL’s troubles weigh on fans

Ravens cut Ray Rice after video emerges

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.
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