Two giant and immensely respected names in the annals of the NFL will be overseeing the investigation into NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's handling of the Ray Rice case. Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers and John Mara, co-owner of the New York Giants will be the NFL owners' representatives involved in the investigation.
Goodell has requested former F.B.I. Director Robert S. Mueller III conduct an independent investigation into the League Office's handling of the Ray Rice incident. Perhaps like a politician, Goodell believes that, by initiating an investigation into his own office's actions, he can repair the damage he has inflicted on his own office and the NFL shield by having this investigation find a scapegoat.
Now is the time for the Rooney family to imprint the NFL with the Steelers' "The Standard is the Standard".
Just as it made no difference that Ben Roethlisberger stated he would accept whatever punishment the team and the NFL chose to impose on him in 2010 and would not appeal any ruling to the NFLPA, it should make no difference to the owners that Goodell has requested an outside review of how his unilateral powers have been used in this case.
Flash back to 2010 and the Ben Roethlisberger incident when Art Rooney II is quoted as saying his team is: "...ready to discipline Ben Roethlisberger, but the punishment will be coordinated with the NFL and won't preempt any league action."
"I've made it clear to Ben that his conduct in this incident did not live up to our standards," Rooney said. This despite the fact that Roethlisberger was never formally charged in any incident.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were instrumental in getting Roger Goodell elected as Commissioner of the NFL. Dan Rooney co-chaired the eight-man committee responsible for putting together a pool of candidates for the position of NFL Commissioner to replace Paul Tagliabue. And it was Dan Rooney who delivered the message to Roger Goodell that he had been selected, after five rounds of voting.
"Roger knew it was good news because I was smiling," Rooney said later. "I was looking for the best person to be commissioner, and I had no doubt in my mind that was Roger Goodell. He has done everything during his term with the league in all the departments. He knows labor. He knows television. He knows the business end of it. And really he knows the fans. He's really capable and well-rounded."
"He knows the business end of it. And he really knows the fans." This is the "standard" by which the Steelers' owner measured the candidate he helped to win the office of Commissioner of the NFL.
The Rooneys, as owners, supported the CBA that was presented to the players for ratification in 2011. Whether or not the Rooneys voted for the particular clause granting the Commissioner his unilateral powers to punish players via the NFL Personal Conduct Policy is moot; they never publicly objected to the Commissioner's powers and they stood behind the CBA as it was presented to the players.
It was the Steelers' players who took a stand and refused to ratify the CBA, basing their position on objections to the agreement's granting to Goodell broad, unilateral powers to mete out punishment according to what the Commissioner thinks appropriate. From all accounts, team President Art Rooney II was fine with his players' vote:
"I think our guys will adjust," Rooney said. "They'll be ready to go, I don't think there will be any lingering affects from their vote [Thursday]. They made the statement they wanted to make, and that's fine. They're happy to be back playing football"
The Standard is the Standard Mr. Rooney, and Roger Goodell failed to uphold that standard. Do the actions taken by the Commissioner's office in regard to the Rice case reflect "really knowing the fans"?
It doesn't matter whether the investigation determines that some underling in the League Office received the video tape of inside the elevator and chose to hide or destroy it, just as it didn't matter that Ben Roethlisberger was ever charged for the incidents that led to his suspension.
Mr. Rooney, does this case reflect the Commissioner whom your family believed met the "standard" you wanted to lead the NFL and to whom the CBA that you, as one of 32 owners, presented to the players giving far-reaching powers with which to "protect the shield"? The CBA left to the Commissioner's discretion how the process to police and punish players would work and to what degree others might have a voice in the league's decision-making process. The CBA gave the NFL Commissioner unilateral power to "protect the shield", not his underlings. If Goodell chose to delegate parts of the process he used to formulate his decisions, he can't delegate the responsibility granted him by the CBA to uphold the image of the NFL.
Mr. Rooney, we believe the multitude of voices raised in consternation over the Commissioner's handling of the Ray Rice case clearly shows, to use your words, Roger Goodell did not live up to your standards.
Women follow football; women play fantasy football; women marry, date or are parents of men who follow football. Women are an integral part of the audience that feeds the NFL $9 Billion dollars a year. And your commissioner Roger Goodell failed them. He failed the wives, mothers, daughters, sisters and nieces of every owner of a football team, and of every player because his idea of punishment for a man who so violently struck a woman as Ray Rice did was less than the punishment he metes out to players for using banned substances.
The Standard is the Standard, Mr. Rooney. Your head coach knows what it means; it means that every man on the Steelers' roster is expected to bring the same level of dedication and professionalism to his role whether he's a highly paid starter or the 53rd man.
Your Commissioner stated in his explanation of his sanctions levied against Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay that "...owners, management personnel and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players..." If that's in fact the case, then to what standard will the owners hold the Commissioner for bringing criticism and disdain to the NFL?
We applaud the decision to include you in oversight of the independent investigation into how the Commissioner's office handled the Ray Rice case, just as we applaud the selection of Mr. Mara. Two better men could not be found to represent the best of what the NFL can be in terms of integrity and respect for the game.
But the fact of the matter is the Commissioner did not uphold the standard by which he should be measured; he did not properly exercise the powers granted to him by 32 ownership groups and 31 player groups. He clearly did not, either through his own doing, or through actions of others on his watch. Roger Goodell failed to ensure that the NFL understood the egregiousness of Rice's actions and give them the consideration they deserved. The NFL failed to find that violence perpetrated against another human being outweighed the use of a vitamin additive, a recreational drug, or a banned substance.
If your own QB deserved the four-game suspension he received, what punishment will be considered as just for a man whose authority allows him to pass judgment on your players and fellow owners, but who failed to properly wield that authority in this instance?
The Standard is the Standard. To what standard will you and your fellow owners hold Roger Goodell?