The National Organization for Women is calling on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to resign over his handling of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case that has enveloped the NFL since Monday, when TMZ published video surveillance footage of the former Baltimore Ravens running back punching and knocking out his then-fiancee during a dispute at an Atlantic City casino in February.
The Ravens released Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely Monday, and Goodell and the league have continually argued since — despite prior reports to the contrary — that they had not seen the video before it was published. The harsher punishment for Rice isn’t enough for NOW, which said in a statement posted on its web site Tuesday that the commissioner is failing to police the league’s domestic violence problem.
“The NFL has lost its way. It doesn’t have a Ray Rice problem; it has a violence against women problem,” NOW said in the statement, pointing to other incidents like Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy’s recent conviction on domestic abuse charges and a FiveThirtyEight study into domestic violence arrest rates in the league.
NOW’s statement goes farther than many of the other calls for Goodell’s resignation, saying whoever succeeds him should also begin an investigation into how the NFL can reform its policies for preventing domestic violence (presumably beyond the “new” policy Goodell instituted in August).
“The only workable solution is for Roger Goodell to resign, and for his successor to appoint an independent investigator with full authority to gather factual data about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking within the NFL community, and to recommend real and lasting reforms,” the statement says. “New leadership must come in with a specific charge to transform the culture of violence against women that pervades the NFL.
“That’s the only way to restore honor and integrity to the country’s most lucrative and popular pastime.”
That was too much for ESPN talking head Stephen A. Smith, who was in the middle of an appearance on the manufactured debate show First Take when host Cari Champion learned of the NOW statement. Smith, who just served a week-long suspension at the beginning of August for comments (made in connection to the original Rice suspension) about women “provoking” domestic violence, went off.
“I’m sorry, I think this woman is off her rocker. I think she’s lost her mind,” Smith said. “That’s right, I said it. This is the most ridiculous nonsense I’ve ever heard in my life. Roger Goodell deserves to lose his job? Why are you acting like he’s Ray Rice? Roger Goodell did not hit Janay Palmer Rice. He hasn’t hit any women. And by the way, the last time I checked, Skip, why are we talking about the NFL as if it’s some cesspool for domestic violence? There’s a few cases. It’s being dealt with. It needs to be dealt with harshly, etc. etc.”
“Because this happens, and he mishandled it, he’s gotta go?” Smith asked even after Champion tried to cut in. “This man deserves to lose his career because of this? He deserves to lose his career because of this? Because the National Organization for Women is going to come out and treat Roger Goodell like he is committing domestic violence?”
“Please! Ridiculous!” Smith concluded, before urging “them to call into my show” as Champion wrapped the segment, which you can see in full at Deadspin.
For his part, Goodell told CBS News on Tuesday that he did he does not feel his job was in jeopardy, and reports indicate that owners don’t feel he needs to go. Goodell further defended his actions in the Rice case in a letter to NFL owners Wednesday.