You probably thought that the most important thing about the Ray Rice “second video” was that it exposed what really went on in that elevator. You’re wrong. We knew from the first video that there had to have been a Rice roundhouse. But did you see Roger Goodell over back there in the corner of that elevator, with broom and shovel in hand?
The most important thing about that second video was that it triggered your opportunity to get a peek at NFL’s powerful glamour factory, much like the old glamour-factory which shaped the persona of the movie stars of the 40’s and 50’s. The NFL stages a “new movie” each week, in each of its cities, which is the weekly football game. And the player-stars of those movies are artificially made more glamorous by the NFL, by carefully shaping what the public sees about those players. The American public — or, at least, the American public as it is itself constantly “shaped” by the NFL, other sports teams and even advertisers –seems to think that it needs to have its athletic standouts appear as something more than just physically gifted and talented. The public thinks it wants its sports heroes to always be virtuous.
The NFL has long been famous for employing a “security force” of astonishing depth and competence, consisting of many ex-FBI and law enforcement hotshots. But the primary function of NFL Security is not security. (At least as most people understand it: to protect the physical security of players, staff or fans.) NFL Security’s primary function has long been to protect the NFL’s carefully-crafted Myth of the Virtuous Player-Hero. NFL Security exists to protect the “security” of the public’s perception of the NFL player-heroes as being virtuous.
To achieve that end, NFL Security is at the ready, in every NFL city, to constantly monitor to detect any evidence of any “problem” player behavior — which often involves some player run-in with the law — and to then move quickly, based upon NFL Security’s deep connections with law enforcement authorities, to work to “bury” the problem by using its “big-foot” presence to persuade cops and DA’s to drop charges, and/or to quickly arrange for the hiring of the best and brightest criminal defense attorneys to similarly persuade cops and DA’s to “back off.” NFL Security uses these brooms, shovels and dustpans to swoop in, after some “bad” player behavior, to”sweep-up” and “bury” the problem and remove as many traces as possible.
Roger Goodell is the director of this entire NFL Security “sweeping” and “burial” operation. And Goodell’s cute “burial” of the second Rice video was not unusual behavior on his part: such “burial” of damning evidence, which might tend to show that one of the league’s heroes was not “virtuous,” is not just a long habit for Goodell. Carrying and using the “player-myth” shovel and broom is one of Roger Goodell’s primary job functions.
Don Van Natta’s excellent reporting confirms this, since he found evidence that, within hours of Rice’s elevator knock-out of his fiance, the Ravens knew about it, and were in the process of making “burial” arrangements for the “problem.” We can only guess at the number of phone calls and other interventions which were immediately arranged by NFL Security, at the direction of Roger Goodell.
And in one important respect, the Rice “problem” deserved, and most likely received, some particularly special and strong “burial” attention from the NFL Security people, the Ravens, the league office, and Goodell, because the domestic violence involved was known by Goodell and others to have the potential for damaging one of the league’s two major potential areas for market and income growth over the coming years: the female market (the other is the international market). So the Goodell and the league had particularly strong motivation to work particularly hard to bury that second tape, which starkly displayed Rice engaging in the kind of pagan violence which, on the field, makes him a hero, but which — off the field — makes him appear a thug and a villain. So Goodell, as his bosses expected, worked hard to suppress that tape.
You can almost imagine Goodell’s precise words: “I need plausible deniability — so I’m not going to look at it.” Or, more to the point, “We CANNOT let this video get out.”
Goodell is a the NFL’s chief movie glamour myth-maker, which necessarily means he is required to engage in this repeated, habitual set of sweeping and burial behaviors to fool the public into believing that its player-heroes are always virtuous. A significant part of Goodell’s job function is to fool the public. His father, Senator Goodell, a man of some considerable conscience, might not be impressed — but neither did his father leave this earth ever having earned an annual paycheck of $44 million.
Goodell’s NFL is a powerful spin machine, with staggering wealth and resources. Bill Simmons figured it all out, and surmised — based upon the accretion of persuasive circumstantial and direct evidence now available — that Goodell most likely knew about every pertinent fact associated with the Rice elevator slug within 24 hours, and that NFL Chief Myth Maker and Shovel-Carrier Goodell had gotten caught with broom and shovel in hand. Goodell desperately wanted to bury that tape, just as he’s been actively involved in burying “bad facts” about players for years. Goodell had gotten in the habit of thinking he could “get away with” his burial of facts and his myth-making. But he got caught. That’s the price you pay for getting the $44 million paycheck.
Bill Simmons called out the truth, and Goodell (and his corporate partner partner in myth-making, ESPN) served a shot across the bow of every reporter, by suspending Simmons: do not mess with the Myth Machine.
Goodell and the NFL took a gamble that they could protect their valuable potential female market by working hard to bury the Rice matter. It blew up in their face, and has, as a result, driven those same female fans away. Goodell and the NFL lost the gamble. Goodell, caught with a broom and shovel in hand, lost his reputation by attempting to fool the public.