Former NFL star Ray Rice delayed filing a lawsuit against the league on Monday to include a written request for Commissioner Roger Goodell to give up his authority.
Rice, a former running back for the Baltimore Ravens who was indefinitely cut from the team last week after video footage surfaced of him abusing his then fiancee, was expected to appeal his suspension on Monday. But he postponed the motion for an eventual demand for Goodell’s recuse. The commissioner would act as a witness in the possible case.The head of the pro-football league is facing mounting pressure from both fans and legislators to resign for previously failing to cut Rice from the team when initial details of the domestic violence case were revealed in February. Still, the league’s 32 owners are the only ones with the authority to remove the former star. Goodell has claimed that the NFL hadn’t seen the explicit footage of Rice striking Janay Rice until last week, but an Associated Press report claimed that a league official received the tape shortly after the story went public earlier this year.
Rice, who was previously suspended from two games in July after details first went public, would receive help from the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) in filing a suit for being punished twice for the same offense. The league has in place a policy that demands every employee avoid “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL.” Under these regulations, an executive committee has the authority, following a hearing, to suspend or remove the commissioner if his actions are harmful to the best interests of the league.
Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire was one of 16 bipartisan women senators who wrote a letter last week to Goodell, demanding he institute a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence within the league. On Tuesday afternoon, she said she hadn’t received a response.
“These individuals are also looked at as role models in our society. Without that zero tolerance policy, we’re sending the absolute wrong message. I think, ‘stay tuned,’ ” she said Tuesday on msnbc’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”
The Rice incident has shed light on the NFL’s history of dealing with domestic violence issues. Gov. Mark Dayton is calling on his state’s team, the Minnesota Vikings, to suspend running back Adrian Peterson for allegedly abusing his four-year-old son. Management deactivated Peterson prior to last Sunday’s game amid charges that he physically abused his son with a tree branch. But, by Monday afternoon, the team had reinstated the player.
Peterson, who is viewed as one of the greatest players in his position in NFL history, hasn’t denied beating his child, and surrendered to authorities over the weekend after being indicted. Consequently, the Radisson hotel chain suspended its sponsorship of Peterson, issuing a statement that management is “closely following the situation.”
Pop star and domestic violence survivor Rihanna spoke out against CBS Sports in a Twitter post on Tuesday for first cutting her music from “Thursday Night Football,” then attempting to reinstate the rendition of Run This Town ahead of this week’s game. The television station last week said the previously planned inclusion of music by a singer who once experienced abuse didn’t match the tone of the introduction to the pregame show. Ultimately, though, the announcers discussed Rice’s actions and consequential suspension during the first quarter of the broadcast.CBS Sports responded in a statement to E!, noting, “Beginning this Thursday, we will be moving in a different direction with some elements of our ‘Thursday Night Football’ open. We will be using our newly created ‘Thursday Night Football’ theme music to open our game broadcast.”
Rihanna, like Janay Rice, was once the victim in a high-profile domestic violence case. In February 2009, Rihanna’s then-boyfriend Chris Brown assaulted her, leaving the singer with visible injuries that required hospitalization.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline recorded an 84% increase in telephone calls in the two days following the release of the video last week.
New York Jets backup quarterback Michael Vick on Tuesday alluded to giving Rice a second chance. Vick was suspended by the NFL in 2007 for violating the personal-conduct policy, and served nearly two years in prison for federal dog-fighting charges. He later revitalized his football career upon his release from jail.
“Somebody told me you can go 23 hours in a day and do the right thing, and in the last hour screw up, and that’s all people are going to remember. You’ve just got to be conscious of what you’re doing and what’s going on at all times,” Vick said during an interview Tuesday with WFAN sports radio.
Along with Goodell, CoverGirl is also dealing with criticisms from the public for its role as the “official beauty partner” of the NFL. The cosmetics brand collaborated with the league to launch “official team makeup looks.” With the addition of a black eye to the model representing the Maryland team, the advertisement for the Ravens has been altered to be a message against domestic violence. The image is coupled with the Twitter hashtag, “#GoodellMustGo.”
Three prominent NFL sponsors, McDonald’s, Anheuser-Busch and Campbell Soup, have come forward to condemn domestic violence and to make it clear that they are monitoring the league’s response to recent controversies.
“As a family brand, we’ve communicated our concerns to the league , and we expect it to take strong and necessary actions to address these issues,” read a McDonald’s official release.
“We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code. We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league,” spokespeople for Anheuser-Busch said on Tuesday.
“Domestic violence is abhorrent. We are watching developments closely and look forward to the findings of the independent investigation underway,” Campbell Soup said in a statement.
The NFL has responded to Anheuser-Busch: “We understand. We are taking action and there will be much more to come.”
In an effort to field some of the ongoing pressure, Goodell on Monday made public plans to expand the role of NFL’s current Vice President of Community Affairs and Philanthropy Anna Issacson to take on the position as vice president of social responsibility. He also hired three other women to serve as special advisers to the league.