The NFL has hired former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to conduct an “independent” investigation of the league’s bungled Ray Rice probe. Two of Roger Goodell’s closest allies, owners John Mara (Giants) and Dan Rooney (Steelers) are overseeing it.
Was Paul Tagliabue not available to help?
Just yesterday, Mara called the idea that Goodell’s job was in jeopardy “misguided.” The Giants owner issued a statement toeing the company line — “My understanding is that the League and the Ravens made repeated requests to obtain the video of the Ray Rice incident and were denied each time” — which became obsolete shortly later when the AP reported an April voicemail to law enforcement from league offices confirming the receipt and awfulness of the tape.
(In 2012, Mara, the Chairman of the NFL Management Committee, doled out $46 million of salary cap penalties to division rivals Washington and Dallas for violating the “spirit of the salary cap,” or, more accurately, not cooperating with the other owners’ collusion to suppress player compensation in the uncapped 2010 season.)
Mueller works for the law firm WilmerHale, which, as Darren Rovell noted last night, has previously negotiated deals with DirecTV on the league’s behalf. It was also the firm where the league’s number two lawyer Jay Bauman and Ravens president Richard Cass worked at directly before their respective jobs.
This type of intertwining could be the case with the NFL and many big law firms. But, instinctually, this whole endeavor feels like it will give PR cover for Roger Goodell to refuse to discuss Ray Rice publicly, and to give the league several months to pinpoint scapegoats that won’t topple the whole house of cards.
If the league were interested in conducting an investigation that would more plausibly seek to reveal inconvenient truths — for obvious reasons, they’re not — they may’ve considered former commissioner Paul Tagliabue. In 2012, Tagliabue vacated the Saints players’ Bountygate suspensions, and “undisputedly” absolved linebacker Scott Fujita.
As Don Banks wrote yesterday, Goodell punished Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis, saying that ignorance of what Gregg Williams had been doing was not an excuse for failing to stop it. Given the rhetoric of the NFL owners, Goodell’s ignorance — that’s the absolute BEST case scenario here, and he hasn’t earned the public’s trust to rule out a sinister cover-up — will not, in and of itself be fireable.
There will need to be indisputable evidence of a cover-up, or a substantial pushback from sponsors, and it’s impossible to know right now whether that will manifest in the coming time period.
Related: The NFL’s Ray Rice Response Was Classic Roger Goodell, Which is the Problem
Related: Time to Blame NFL Owners for Keeping Roger Goodell in Charge
Related: Keith Olbermann and Jason Whitlock, Two Key Voices at NFL Broadcast Partner ESPN, Have Called for Roger Goodell’s Resignation