Controversies have peppered Roger Goodell's career as NFL commissioner
Past controversies: Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger and concussion lawsuits
Robert Mueller to lead inquest into how NFL handled its investigation into Rice case
National Organization for Women wants Goodell to resign
Since Roger Goodell took over as NFL commissioner in September 2006, he’s had his hands full.
The current domestic violence case involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is just the latest in a long list of controversies that have punctuated his reign atop the country’s most profitable sports league.
Here are some that have attracted the biggest headlines:
Michael Vick’s dog fighting arrest
Allegations of Vick’s participation in dog fighting activities began to swirl in April 2007.
Within three months, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback and three associates were indicted in federal court.
By the end of August, Vick reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors on one charge of conspiracy involving illegal dog fighting. Vick admitted participating in killing dogs and operating a business enterprise that involved illegal gambling.
Goodell notified Vick that he was suspended from the National Football League indefinitely, without pay.
Vick served 20 months for the conviction.
In 2009, Goodell reinstated Vick to the league on a conditional basis. In 2011, he signed a six-year, $100 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, making Vick one of the highest earning players in the NFL.
Vick is now a backup quarterback for the New York Jets.
Plaxico Buress’ nightclub incident
The former New York Giants wide receiver accidentally shot himself in the leg with a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol he was carrying in his waistband. The incident happened November 2008, in the VIP area of the Latin Quarter nightclub in Manhattan.
Buress served 20 months on a weapons charge.
The NFL’s punishment was much less severe.
Goodell give him a four-game suspension. The Giants later released him.
Ben Roethlisberger’s sex assault accusations
The longtime Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback has been accused for sexual assault twice – one in Nevada in 2009 and in Georgia in 2010.
No criminal charges were ever filed. But Goodell decided that “Big Ben” violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy and suspended him for the first four games of the 2010 season.
“You don’t have to be convicted of a crime,” Goodell said. “You will be held accountable to that standard, and we expect them to meet that.”
New Orleans’ “bountygate” scandal
The NFL said that from 2009-11 Saints players “pledged significant amounts of their own money toward bounties” for injuring or knocking opposing players out of the game. That payout amount doubled and tripled for playoff games, the league said.
League punishment was steep.
Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for the 2012 season, while the NFL levied an indefinite suspension on former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was accused of masterminding the bonus program.
Four players were suspended, although some of their terms were reduced and some were cleared.
“It is the obligation of everyone, including the players on the field, to ensure that rules designed to promote player safety, fair play, and the integrity of the game are adhered to and effectively and consistently enforced,” Goodell said.
The concussion lawsuits
In August 2007, the NFL formalized new concussion guidelines.
The House Judiciary Committee held hearings on the matter in 2009 and 2010. Goodell defends the League’s policy regarding concussions.
“Decisions regarding treatment of players with concussions and when they can resume play must be made by doctors and doctors alone,” Goodell said. “We are changing the culture of our game for the better.”
Goodell also touted improved medical and retirement benefits for retirees.
In August 2013, the NFL and ex-players reached a deal in the class action lawsuit that called for the NFL to pay $765 million to fund medical exams, concussion-related compensation, medical research for retired NFL players and their families. The agreement still needs to be approved by the judge assigned to the case, which has grown to include more than 4,500 plaintiffs.
In January, the NFL proposed a $760 million settlement that Goodell was confident a federal judge would approve. But she didn’t, saying she didn’t think it was enough money.
In May of this year, several former NFL players sued the NFL over concussions, claiming the NFL knew for years of the link between concussions and long-term health problems.
Ray Rice and domestic abuse
The Ray Rice case puts Goodell and the NFL in an especially harsh spotlight.
Not just because it involves domestic abuse, but because the punishment often pales in comparison to suspensions Goodell has handed out for drug and alcohol offenses.
Critics say the discrepancy sends a message that slapping around your wife, girlfriend or date isn’t as big of a deal to the league as drug or alcohol use and abuse.
In the Rice case, a security camera video that showed former Ravens running back knocking out his now-wife on a casino elevator has touched a nerve. Not only for the violence, but for how the league handled it.
Goodell levied a mere two-game guspension, based on an initial video that showed Rice dragging an unconscious Janay Palmer off an Atlantic City casino elevator.
The suspension became indefinite when a second video obtained by TMZ showed Rice throwing the punch that knocked her out. The Ravens kicked him off the team Monday.
Bowing to the criticism, the NFL announced late Wednesday that former FBI Director Robert Mueller will lead an independent inquiry into the league’s investigation and how it gathered evidence in the case.
The new domestic violence policy
Unlike the other controversies that have faded over time, the scrutiny over Rice incident appears to only grow more intense.
Twelve Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have sent a letter to Goodell demanding “the highest level of transparency” concerning the investigation of the Rice incident.
On the other side of Capitol Hill, 16 female U.S. Senators have also sent a letter to Goodell a letter. In it, they say they are “shocked and disgusted” by the elevator video and want the NFL to have a “real zero tolerance policy.”
Goodell recently announced a new domestic violence policy that will dole out six-game suspensions for a first-time offense, and a lifetime ban for a second one.
The league is also under fire from the National Organization for Women.
“We are insisting that Roger Goodell must resign and we want a truly independent investigator with full authority and full power to do a top-to-bottom review of all the domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking incidents within the NFL community,” said Terry O’Neill, the group’s president.
So far, no team owner has spoken out against Goodell, and it’s their call on whether the NFL commissioner keeps his job.
Asked in a CBS interview if he felt his job was on the line, Goodell said, “No.”
“I’m used to criticism. I’m used to that,” Goodell said. “Every day I have to earn my stripes.”