ESPN recently suspended popular sportswriter and analyst Bill Simmons for three weeks after Simmons called National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell a liar in his podcast. Simmons was referring to Goodell’s claim during a press conference that he had not seen the video in which former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice clearly assaults his now-wife Janay Rice (neé Palmer) before meting out the original two-game suspension. ESPN’s decision to suspend Simmons is unforgivable. Simmons’ declaration that Goodell is a liar echoed the thoughts of many NFL fans in the past weeks. As one of the few speaking honestly about Goodell’s handling of the situation, Simmons’ voice was refreshing.
Simmons has made a career out of pushing the envelope and being unafraid to speak his mind. It is this no-nonsense approach to sports reporting that landed Simmons a job at ESPN to begin with, but now he is being punished for the same qualities that make him such a popular figure.
Those who have been following the scandal will remember that in July, sportscaster Stephen A. Smith publicly commented that Janay Rice provoked the attack by putting her hands on her then-fiancée first. Smith was suspended for his comments, but for just one week. Two months later, Simmons has received a suspension three times as long because he called out the commissioner of the NFL on the league’s hypocrisy and indecency.
ESPN’s inconsistent suspensions send the wrong message. Smith received a slap on the wrist for blaming the victim of a heinous assault, while Simmons was assigned a lengthy suspension because he had the audacity to speak his mind. ESPN has made it clear where its allegiances lie. Furthermore, one cannot overlook the tragic irony of the fact that Simmons’ suspension is significantly longer than Ray Rice’s original two-game ban.
Simmons is right to call out Goodell. The NFL commissioner claimed that neither he nor anyone else in the NFL’s main office had seen the video because law enforcement would not release it. The entertainment website TMZ, however, had no trouble obtaining a copy of the full video and uploading it for all to see.
Further exemplifying Goodell’s inability to keep his lies straight is the fact that he overlooks that multiple news sources had already confirmed that the NFL received a copy of the video and that someone watched it in its entirety. Additionally, Rice admitted to Goodell months ago that he had assaulted his fiancée, believing that Goodell had already seen the video. Goodell had Rice’s confession as well as the supporting video evidence regardless of whether he saw the whole tape.
Rice’s confession and the initial footage should have been enough for Goodell to suspend Rice indefinitely. Instead, he decided to push forward with his cover-up to keep Rice on the field and the money rolling in.
Goodell’s appalling mishandling of the entire scandal indicates his desire to put profit over morality. His reactionary strategy is an embarrassment for the entire league. Goodell should resign immediately before the team owners decide to can him. At this point, that is the only thing he could do of which I would approve.
When Goodell inevitably loses his spot as commissioner of the NFL, Simmons would not be a bad replacement candidate. At least we would be able to count on his honesty.