Ray Rice case: Condoleezza Rice should replace Roger Goodell as NFL commissioner

What difference did the second video make?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his executives could see from the first video that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice had attacked his girlfriend so viciously as to knock her unconscious. All of this investigation into whether the NFL knew about the second video is a reminder of the old Washington, adage that the cover-up gets people into more trouble than the crime.

That’s why I want to add my voice to the growing chorus of Americans who would like to see former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice replace Goodell as commissioner of the National Football League. It's an idea first put forth this week by the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart.


Mr. Goodell’s response to the disturbing video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice beating his fiancée in an elevator was not just underwhelming, it was grossly derelict. The idea that he would ban a player from the league for smoking pot for a year but set a two-game suspension for violent abuse of a woman invites derision.

Football fans and even political analysts like me can read the writing on the wall. For the sake of the game, Goodell needs to go.

The question then becomes who will replace him at this delicate and difficult time for the league and the sport. The teams’ owners care about protecting the league’s image because they care about protecting the advertisers who make it possible for them to bank billion dollar network broadcast deals.

The person who fits the bill for the owners is far and away is former Secretary of State Rice.

Let me be clear, while I consider her a friend and have praised Rice’s work on education and immigration reform, I do not agree with all of her conservative politics. Moreover, I have been critical of the role she played as a member of the Bush administration in misleading the American people into the Iraq war by selling bogus claims about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction and connections to Al Qaeda.

But I have always respected Rice as pioneer in her field and a role model for black America’s sons and daughters. Her hard work and commitment to education took her from a working class family in the segregated South to the highest heights of academia and politics. As the first African-American woman to serve as Secretary of State, she is the embodiment of the American Dream.

Rice also famously told the New York Times in 2002 that being NFL Commissioner would be her dream job.

Well, Condi, here's your chance!

Rice's tenure in the Bush administration gave her the management and leadership experience to lead the NFL and restore the public’s trust in the league.

As National Security Adviser and Secretary of State, Rice frequently clashed with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld – both of whom are brash, powerful, ego-driven men.

At its most basic level, the job of the NFL commissioner is to manage brash, powerful, ego-driven men – owners, advertisers, players and union representatives.

If the big boys in Washington like Cheney and Rumsfeld didn’t intimidate Condi, then neither will the boys club of the NFL.

Integrity, competence and experience should be the qualities the NFL looks for in its next commissioner.

But it would be naive to think race doesn’t play a role in professional sports. Surveys show that between 60 and 70 percent of NFL players are black.

Surely, it couldn’t hurt to have an African-American NFL commissioner – especially one with an impeccable resume who could never be written off as a racial token.

Rice has already made history in the world of sports. In 2012, she was one of the first women (there were only two) to be admitted into the historically white, male dominated Augusta National Golf Club.

Though she has repeatedly denied it, there may be one job Rice wants more than NFL commissioner – president of the United States.

In two years, if we don’t see President Rice on the Eisenhower putting green at the White House, I would love to see her on the Gridiron leading a revitalized National Football League.