At least one big name politician isn’t blitzing embattled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie rushed to Goodell’s defense on Thursday evening over his controversial handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case.
“I absolutely believe that Roger Goodell is a good, honest, decent man that has great integrity,” Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said on New Jersey’s 101.5 FM’s “Ask the Governor” program. “He’s admitted he made a mistake in the Rice case … we have to be a society that considers the totality of somebody’s work and their life. In my mind if I were an NFL owner, I’d be voting to keep Roger Goodell.”
According to NFL rules, it would take a three-quarters vote of league owners to fire Goodell.
Since a second video emerged earlier this month showing the football player hitting and knocking his then fiancée, Janay Rice, unconscious, many fans, women’s rights groups, and lawmakers have leveled harsh criticism at the football league and Goodell in particular, with several calling on the NFL commissioner to resign.
Goodell initially suspended Rice, a Baltimore Ravens running back, for just two games after video surfaced on Feb. 19 showing the athlete dragging an unconscious Janay Rice (née Palmer) out of an elevator at the Revel hotel-casino in Atlantic City. The NFL only announced the football player’s indefinite suspension from the league on Sept. 8 after the second video from the incident was released by TMZ.
Goodell maintains the league never saw the video before Sept. 8, although a law enforcement official has since told the Associated Press that the video footage was sent to the NFL in April – a claim that directly contradicts Goodell’s argument.
The NFL recently announced that it hired ex-FBI director Robert Mueller to conduct an investigation into the league’s handling of the Rice matter and Goodell has promised his full cooperation, including access to all the league’s internal files. Goodell admitted back on Aug. 28 that he go the Rice punishment wrong and announced a new, stricter policy for violent conduct. But critics argue Goodell, who raked in $44 million last year – has not pursued the domestic violence case in a swift enough manner, and at worse turned a blind eye to it.
The NFL players’ union is appealing Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension from the league.
During the radio show, Christie also weighed in on a new NBC report that backs Christie’s assertion that he had no prior knowledge about some of his staffers and allies scheme to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge back in September—seemingly for political retribution.
Christie said, “I told the people of New Jersey directly and honestly on Jan. 9 that I had no knowledge of this and no role of any kind in the planning or execution of it and if this report is true than I’m glad there will be another source.” The governor then pointed to a state legislative investigation, which has so far turned up no evidence the governor had any prior knowledge of the scandal that’s given his administration a black eye.
He also referred to a separate review the governor commissioned earlier this year, costing taxpayers more than $7 million. The final report cleared Christie of any wrongdoing back in March, but its findings have been criticized by his opponents who argue it wasn’t independent, did not involve key people at the center of the scandal and was being done by a law firm with known ties to the governor.
Christie’s travel schedule, meanwhile, has been packed and has been fueling speculation that he’s testing the waters for a presidential run. Earlier this week, he was in South Carolina, North Carolina and New Hampshire stumping for 2014 gubernatorial candidates as chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association.
The governor heads to Michigan and Pennsylvania next week.