The Burke Blotter: The NFL Needs Leaders, Not Cowards

NFL, Roger Goodell, Ray Rice, Janay Rice, NFL Domestic Violence, NFL Suspensions, Roger Goodell Ray Rice, Roger Goodell resign

One of the cardinal rules for anyone involved with the National Football League, whether it’s as a player or executive, is “don’t harm the shield.”

After a week that featured perhaps the biggest public relations blunder in league history, the NFL shield has not only been harmed but it’s also been dented, soiled upon, lit on fire and dragged through the mud.  The NFL and those involved with it are hanging their heads in shame this week after another leaked video of Ray Rice by TMZ exploded across the internet showing clear as day Rice KO’ing his then-fiancee and now-wife Janay.

The video released in April showing Rice dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator was upsetting enough.  Even more upsetting was that the league (and by extension, commissioner Roger Goodell) deemed that this act was worthy of only a two-game suspension.  Players taking drugs and battling addictions are being given full year suspensions yet a player who cold cocks his significant other only sits for two games?

The outrage over that was enough to get the league to change its stance on domestic abuse incidents: first offense would get a six-game ban, and a second offense? You’re out of the league for good.

That seemed to be enough to satisfy most people for the time being and though Rice deserved a longer suspension, most were happy the league was finally changing its ways and leave it at that.

Until this week.

When the video of the former Ravens running back punching his wife in the elevator leaked out, an tsunami of public outrage rose up so fast the NFL was powerless to do anything to stop it.  It was the biggest public outcry against the league since the “Fail Mary” in 2012 and this situation is much, MUCH worse.

Immediately questions began to arise: Did the NFL see this video already? If they did, how the heck could they only have suspended Rice two games?  It wasn’t like this was a scuffle.  He just BAM knocked out the girl he allegedly loves so much.  If the NFL didn’t see it (and this seemed unlikely from the start), how could the world’s richest sporting organization not have the ability to get this tape from a hotel?

Either theory has to be true.  There is no middle ground in this.

So what does the NFL do? Like any multi-billion dollar corporation, they went into the spin cycle but only forgot to put the truth detergent in with their dirty laundry.

Goodell went on national television and said that the league did not see the video before it leaked this week.  Not soon after, reports came out that the league indeed had access to the videotape….all the way back in April!  What’s worse is when Rice met with Goodell before the suspension was handed out, he even confessed to hitting his fiancee. Rice said that straight to the commissioner.

The commissioner claims he didn’t see the tape of the actual punch until Monday.  Yet sources say law enforcement sent the NFL the elevator tape all the way back in April.  Is it possible Goodell went approximately five months without viewing this videotape?  It’s possible, but highly unlikely.  Why? After the initial massive outcry following the announcement of Rice’s two-game suspension, if Goodell didn’t at least go back and review everything again, then he’s thumbing his nose at everyone and basically saying “I’m smarter than you are so trust my judgement.”

If he did, and viewed the elevator tape at that time, then he’s a liar.

Either way, Goodell loses.  If it’s the latter, then he also needs to lose his job.

Now that everything is coming to light, that the NFL had this tape earlier than was originally thought and that it’s possible Goodell, under intense public scrutiny, then proceeded to lie about it has placed the league in an incredibly tough position.  They’ve been backed into a corner.

The league might be backed into a metaphorical corner, but it’s nothing like the very real corners women all around the world feel as victims of domestic violence.  That’s the real tragedy of the situation here.

All this attention is being paid right now on should Goodell resign or be fired or if fans should start boycotting the league.  This is the exact discussion the NFL wants because it keeps them in the headlines and if it keeps them in the headlines, then the TV ratings increase and if the rating$ increase then….you get my point.  I’m writing this article, so they’ve already succeeded with me too.

Goodell and the league need to be held accountable for any negligence that is found.  That’s something that shouldn’t even be up for debate (fringe idiots on the internet and Twitter aside).   What really needs to happen though is that the spotlight that is currently being shined on domestic violence and its victims needs to stay lit.   People need to start speaking up, especially for those victims who have no voice because it has been unjustly stolen from them by their partner.

With the advent of social media, the world’s attention span has shrunk down to that of a toddler.  Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Are we still talking about ALS? Nope.  A ton of money was raised but that additional awareness? It’s gone. Like someone flipped a switch.

It’d be a smart bet to think the NFL is hoping the same rings true with this Rice situation.  Eventually, everyone will be tired of yelling and screaming and will soon shut up and get back to watching football and everything will be hunky dory.

If that’s the case, then the NFL is run by nothing but a bunch of cowards.  The league has to realize it has a problem with its players beating up their wives/girlfriends/significant others.  45% of the NFL fan base is now female and I’m willing to bet about 95% of the fan base is five shades of ticked off about this.

The NFL needs to lead here.  This isn’t a problem unique to pro football.  It just happens to be a big issue in the biggest money making sports machine on the planet.   An organization with the NFL’s resources at the forefront of domestic abuse awareness and prevention is exactly what the world needs right now.  The league dedicates the whole month of October to preventing cancer.  Perhaps September could be the month for domestic violence? Oh, and the league should donate 100% of proceeds from merchandise sold that month to a domestic violence charity in each team’s home state.  They make enough the other 11 months of the year that they can afford to sacrifice a month of sales.

Slapping a ribbon on a jersey and a hat is not enough, however.   The league needs to educate its players, its owners and its coaches. It needs to focus on prevention just as much as it does discipline.  The NFL is far too reactive when it comes to all off-field incidents when in reality it could  be much more proactive.  The rookie symposium is not enough.  These players need mentors throughout their career.

These are just a couple ideas, but it’d be a positive first of many steps the league can take towards fixing its image.

As far as fan boycotts, I’d  ask those doing so to not rob yourself of all the great joys football brings into your lives.  In a time in which political divides have split families apart and we’d rather scream insults on Twitter than have an honest discussion in person, football (and sports in general) brings people together.  If you’re sitting in Lambeau Field, you don’t care if the person sitting next to you is Democrat or Republican, gay or straight, male or female or what race they are.  You’re all Packer fans.  That’s all that matters.

This is a very dark time for the NFL right now and it’s happening just as their season is getting underway.  All eyes are on them now, unlike in April, and they have to make this right.

For the sake of Janay Rice and others, please NFL.  Make it right.

Fix this.  The world is watching and this time we won’t forget.




Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and


30 thoughts on “The Burke Blotter: The NFL Needs Leaders, Not Cowards

  1. Great Article. Thanks. I initially bristled at the accusations against Goodell. I say that even though I am outraged at the domestic abuse problem, and Rice incident(s). I’m not a conspiracy theorist, one to go assuming NFL knew, could have had the tape, deliberately avoided.. etc…and join a lynching party. But, now, I’m ready to boycott until there is very strong stance made by NFL; Goodell needs to resign.

    1. you can always apologize to me if you want… or even say, “yeah Big T you were right and I was wrong”

  2. Goodell hast lost all credibility for all time. And by extension, the NFL has as well unless and until they replace Goodell with some other lying lackey of ownership. These gus pay no taxes on their ginormus profits and those who do pick up the tab on their Taj Mahal 8th wonder of the world stadiums.

  3. The US has a justice system doesn’t it? Did it find Rice guilty and punish him accordingly? Did Janay press charges or get herself a new boyfriend? Oh wait, they got married. Ray Rice is an asshole in a league full of assholes. Roethlisberger, Lewis, Vikings boat gong show, Isray, Jerry Jones, Suh and the list goes on. Get over your self righteous indignation, Janay did. If you want the NFL to lead the way in social reform then you are misguided.

    The issue here isn’t violence against women. Sports isn’t going to address this problem. The issue is Roger Goodell has been playing judge and jury and nobody likes him. Now he is caught in a web of his own making and people want the judge hung. I say hang him because I don’t like him either or how he dispenses justice – not because of Ray or Janay Rice

      1. I understand this Chad and I understand that people, sadly, live in abusive relationships. The Rice incident was caught on tape and he was charged with assault. The justice system failed, Janay failed and the NFL is now the final frontier to combat domestic violence. The league is not the right place to try or solve domestic abuse. BUT, Like I said, Roger Goodell set himself up to be the moral compass of the league so now he should take a fall.

    1. Razer, while there is a lot in your post that I definitely DON’T agree with, I do agree with the notion that it’s not the NFL’s role to take over the work of the US Justice System. I’m not speaking specifically about the Ray Rice situation, but it seems to happen all too often that in the very moment someone makes an allegation against a player, people are crying for blood and expecting the NFL to extract it.

      I understand that an organization like the NFL has a right to enforce a code of conduct policy (even one that is more restrictive than US government law), but the principal of innocent until proven guilty does not always appear to be respected, at least by many fans.

  4. What people do outside of their employment is their business, period. Not condoning Rice’s action, of course, but in the days with no cameras this is a non issue. She married the dude, her problem and nobody’s else’s business including the NFL’s. If everyone minded his/her own business this world would be a better place. I know it is not possible but we can dream!

    What people won’t do for money, yikes!


    1. “What people do outside of their employment is their business, period.”

      If your child’s school teacher was arrested for domestic abuse, you wouldn’t want anyone else to know about that?

      1. Sure but totally different, Rice is NOT a school teacher. He plays a violent game and gets paid for it. At least he used to.

    1. I voted you down for the ‘bitch’ word…..surely you could have easily shown some respect by using another like…woman.

    2. Comments like these propagate the mentality of male dominance and the inferiority of women. Shameful.

  5. First, any scandal that effects the play on the field is much more serious than any off the field. The core of any sports league is the integrity of the competition. Point shaving or officiating issues such as the Fail Mary are much more devastating than off field issues.

    Second, the main outrage seems to be that Goodell lied about not seeing the tape. This is unjustified outrage at it’s best or worse. People, Goodell lies to you every day, just like Obama, any other politician, your family members, and just about any other person you encounter on a daily basis. Why get outraged over one Goodell lie and not the thousands of others?

  6. I’m ticked off about the league office’s lie or incompetency too Kris. But this

    “After a week that featured perhaps the biggest public relations blunder in league history”

    Is overkill.

    What about Hornung and Karras being suspended for a year for gambling? What about the ongoing blackout saga? The 3 work stoppages since 1981?

    Rae Carruth? Aaron Hernandez? Ray Lewis? Spygate?

    Rice fits in with those lines. But he’s not above it.

  7. Al, I love your site, been coming here almost daily for over a year for Packers news and commentary. However, I’m not a fan of whatever has been done to the mobile site. I used to get just a nice list of all the newest stories. Now it looks like the full site. I can’t find a mobile button to change it. Perhaps you or the posters could help a technology challenged 54 year old.

    By far the biggest problem is this disqus comment feature. It takes forever to load, and half the time it doesn’t load at all. Very frustrating. The old comment system was much easier. Still love you regardless, but please make it easier to converse with my fellow Pack fans.

    1. Heck, I don’t even like the full site… at all. The ONLY thing that I really like better about the new site is the ability to edit your own posts.

      1. Thanks marpag. Are you having the same loading issues with the disqus feature, or is my equipment simply inferior?

        1. I don’t think the comments have ever failed to load for me, although they do seem to take a pretty long time. I’m just not a big fan of the design generally.

  8. The Jets are a young, physical, and ascending team with an inspirational HC. The Pack is none of those things. The more I think about this game the more I think the Pack is the underdog. OTOH, blitzing AROD is hazardous to your health and I think they have to blitz to protect their DBs. Or, they might try double covering our top 2 WRs and play everybody else 1 on 1. If so, could be big day for Bostick, Adams and Boykin. Running on their front 7 will be tough going. I hope MM doesn’t do his run on 1st down, run on 2nd down, throw on 3rd down offense. They will blitz on 3rd down then. Poor MM, no creativity in his game planning/play calling. He misses Joe Philbin and McAdoo.

    1. It is really amazing when the fans know what plays MM is calling next. Just think how easy that makes the opposing teams game plan. MM and TT = the dumbing down of the Packers

      1. I’m not a fan of McCarthy as a playcaller, but I’m really tired of the constant blaming of either him or Ted Thompson. They did win a Superbowl only four years ago. You know how many teams fans wish they could say that?

  9. I like the vast majority of your thoughts, Kris, but the paragraph copied below is completely nuts. There is absolutely no way the NFL wants the current discussion. Doesn’t even make any sense…

    “All this attention is being paid right now on should Goodell resign or be fired or if fans should start boycotting the league. This is the exact discussion the NFL wants because it keeps them in the headlines and if it keeps them in the headlines, then the TV ratings increase and if the rating$ increase then….you get my point.”

  10. I wonder if Goodell saw the tape, and thought, geez I don’t want this getting out there, it’ll make the NFL look really bad….

  11. This is not the case i would pick to respresent domestic abuse. These two people got drunck and hit each other. Ray hit way way harder. But it does not sound like there is a pattern of abuse. It wasva horrible mistake by Rice.

    Greg Hardy beat and threatened his girl fruend charges were pressed, and a judge found him guilty. The panthers and the NFL still have him on the field. Their talk about being serious about domestic violence is BS.

    Adrian Peterson beat his 4 year old son with a stick until the skin broke. Consider this, Janay engaged in a physical confrontation with Rice, they hit each other, and she is an adult. Beating a 4 year with a stick is worse.

    What about McDonald of the 49ers? What will the NFL do in cases of true domestic violence? My bet is…Jack sh… And it is discusting.

    1. Why do we need to quantify domestic abuse? Also, I’m curious how McDonald or Hardy’s cases are “true” domestic violence compared to Rice?

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