Ray Rice 1, NFL 0.
The first skirmish in the Ray Rice appeal hearing has resulted in a big victory for Rice and the NFL Players Association — and a potentially costly loss for the league office and Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Per a league source (and as multiple others are reporting as the news is leaked to multiple reporters), former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones has decided that Goodell should testify at the hearing.
It’s so obvious that Goodell should testify in a case that hinges on whether Ray Rice lied to Goodell that it’s surprising the league resisted. It makes Goodell and the league look like they have something to hide, at a time when the NFL is trying to create the impression of transparency.
Then again, lawyers representing a large company typically try to shield the chief executive from testifying. While it often happens because the chief executive actually has something to hide or lacks the ability to engage in effective verbal fencing with a skilled trial lawyer, folks who are used to having a lot of power typically don’t like submitting to someone else’s authority.
Goodell now will be submitting to the authority of Judge Jones — and answering potentially hostile questions from Rice’s lawyer.
The transcript of Goodell’s testimony, along with the rest of the evidence generated in the Rice appeal process, also will (or at least should) become part of the official investigation conducted by former FBI director Robert Mueller. Anything Goodell says while testifying in the Rice appeal hearing should be compared to anything he said to Mueller for evidence of any inconsistencies.
With multiple owners reportedly taking a wait-and-see approach to Goodell’s employment status based on the outcome of the Mueller investigation, Goodell’s performance while testifying in the Rice appeal could, in theory, influence whether he’ll remain on the job. He’ll need to be more direct and responsive before Judge Jones than he was during his September 19 press conference — and during his testimony in the Super Bowl ticket case.