One of the questions we suggested for Commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference focused on whether he’ll testify at the Ray Rice appeal hearing.
Goodell was asked that question. And his answer didn’t really answer it.
“I don’t think that’s my decision,” Goodell said, via the Associated Press. “I think Judge Jones is the one who ultimately is going to make the rules and determinations. I’ve been in meetings all day. That isn’t something that I’ve addressed.”
At a time when the NFL should be hoping to be as transparent as possible when it comes to the various off-field issues it confronts, that may not be the best position to take.
Indeed, Goodell’s answer suggests that the NFL’s lawyers will try to shield him from testifying under oath, which the lawyers representing a large business almost always do when the boss is asked to submit to authority other than his own. By saying that Judge Jones will make the decision, Goodell implies that there will be a dispute that she must resolve regarding whether he should testify.
There shouldn’t be. The question before Judge Jones will be whether the NFL knew or should have known what Rice did to his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City elevator on February 15. Goodell’s public comments and his letter to Rice suspending him indefinitely express a belief that Rice painted a picture far different in meetings with the team and the league than the video released 30 days ago did. Goodell, who ultimately processed the information and determined that Rice’s story wasn’t consistent with the visual evidence, isn’t simply an essential witness — he and Rice will be the key witnesses in determining what Rice said and what the NFL otherwise knew or should have known.
Ultimately, it would be shocking if Judge Jones doesn’t compel Goodell to testify. And it would be a much better look for Goodell and the league if Goodell simply said, “I’ll be there. And I’ll bring the Bible.”