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Pluto: Could Condoleezza Rice fix the NFL?
Terry Pluto says the former U.S. secretary of state and avid NFL fan could be the NFL's disciplinary arm
by WKSU's AMANDA RABINOWITZ


Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
 
In 2002, Condoleezza Rice told the New York Times it was “absolutely right” that she wanted to be commissioner of the NFL.
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Embattled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has vowed to stay on the job despite sharp criticism for how he’s handled recent high-profile domestic violence cases among players. During a press conference last week, Goodell apologized for what he said was his mishandling of the Ray Rice scandal but said he plans to do whatever it takes to “make it right.”  WKSU commentator Terry Pluto explains why Goodell still has the job and suggests how former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could help.
LISTEN: How Condoleezza Rice could fix the NFL

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Why does Goodell still have a job?
Terry Pluto says the main reason why NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hasn't resigned is that he earns a huge salary. He was paid $44 million at last report in 2012, the most recent to be reported by the NFL. That was up 50% from 2011. The only player who came close to earning that kind of money was Drew Brees, who pulled down $40 million in salary and signing bonus that same year, according to salary tracker Spotrac.

Goodell became commissioner in 2006, and earned $105 million from the 2008 through 2012 seasons. The league has yet to file its 2013 season financials.

Goodell is also favorable with the NFL owners, because he has transformed the NFL into a $6 billion industry. "Several years ago, when the labor agreement was up...This new agreement that they got was a sweetheart for the owners," Pluto says. "For example, they wanted a rookie salary cap, they got that. Goodell negotiated that, just like he negotiated these wonderful TV contracts." 

"Goodell will have a lot of owners, some of whom are his friends, lobbying for softer penalties for some of their stars who are in trouble. And, he's thinking, 'I may need these guy's vote somewhere down the line.' They're always doing these business deals."  

A problem with discipline
Pluto says Goodell's credibility with discipline is "shot." And he says a good example is the recent case of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. Irsay admitted that he was under the influence of painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone while driving March 16. He also had about $29,000 cash in his vehicle. Goodell suspended Irsay for six games and fined him $500,000.

"The highest fine they can give an owner is $500,000, yet a player like Josh Gordon, who is being suspended for 10 games [is] losing around $800,000." Pluto says another player, Justin Blackmon, who served a suspension to start the 2013 NFL season and finished the season with an indefinite suspension for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, lost about $2 million. "There is something off-kilter there."

Break it into two jobs and tap Condoleezza Rice
Pluto says he thinks the solution is to take the job of disciplining players, owners and others away from the NFL commissioner. And that the league should hire someone from the outside to handle disciplinary issues. Pluto thinks that person should be former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. According to a 2002 story in The New York Times, “[Rice] wants to be commissioner of the National Football League. She is serious. ‘That's absolutely right,' she said, 'though not immediately and not before Paul Tagliabue is ready to step down. I want to say that for the record.’”

"Some people are saying Condoleezza Rice should replace Roger Goodell," Pluto says. "Actually, what she would bring is more of a moral compass than they have right now. So, make her the 'conscience of the NFL.' The reason I like someone like Rice is because she's not beholden to the owners. Someone who has not worked for the NFL. Someone who is coming from the outside but yet understands what must be done. Secondly, I think she would have instant credibility, especially in this area. I would like to see them try something like that. Goodell has lost credibility on these social, moral issues." 

Likelihood it could happen?
"You need somebody who is strong among the owners, like Jerry Jones of the Cowboys, who get together and say, 'Look, Roger, here's the new reality. You're great on this end, we love you here. You've lost all credibilty there. So, we go one of two ways. either we hire a brand new commissioner and you're out. Or, we try it this way.'" 

"Whether we like it or not, the NFL is always going to have discipline problems.  And the real question is not, what do we do to make them go away? But, what we do when they pop up?"

LISTEN: Terry Pluto on Indians season
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