WHY CONDI RICE SHOULD BE NEXT IN LINE AS NFL COMMISSIONER

By Theodore N. Beitchman

I don’t know if Roger Goodell will be NFL commissioner by the end of this day, this week or this month.

His actions in the wake of the Ray Rice domestic abuse tapes, going back to last February, are those of a dead man walking. If this were any other business, Goodell’s “see no evil, hear no evil” attitude would be cause for immediate dismissal from his $47 million a year job.

In this case, the board of directors of the corporation Goodell runs is made up of the 32 team owners, plutocrats all, and until they believe that their bottom line is being negatively affected Goodell’s job is safe.

No amount of caterwauling from the National Organization for Women or Keith Olbermann or Vladimir Putin will amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Unless and until Ford, Chrysler, Geico, Papa John’s, Toyota and Verizon start feeling it in their businesses. Then, all bets are off.

By any standard, Goodell has been a mediocre commisoner, whether compared to the transcendant Pete Rozelle, who established the modern NFL; David Stern, who saved the NBA from itself and grew it into a worldwide collusus; or even Bart Giamatti, the short-term MLB who made the difficult decision to bar Pete Rose for life.

All of them had to make tough calls.

And can you imagine the NBA’s Adam Silver acting as weakly and indecisively as Goodell has?

If Goodell does go, and I hope he does, the question is who’s next?

There is such an obvious choice that the knuckleheaded owners probably won’t see it.

Someone who has the respect of the nation, has worked in high-power environments, has a football mentality — she’s on the BCS selection committee — and is a member of the old boys network:

Condaleeza Rice fits the bill, and as an added inducement she is a member of Augusta National so the Jeffrey Luries and Bob Krafts of the world could get to play a round.

Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post agrees:

Condoleezza Rice made a startling admission to the New York Times in 2002. The then-national security adviser to President George W. Bush said it was “absolutely right” that she wanted to be commissioner of the National Football League. This was no joke. Rice was serious, but she wanted it to be known that she wouldn’t want to do it “before Paul Tagliabue is ready to step down.”

Well, Tagliabue is long gone and his successor Roger Goodell has made a mess of it. Time for the former secretary of state with an intense love of the game to step in and save the NFL.

The NFL’s reputation is in tatters. The league’s players are such flypaper for trouble that the daily newspaper U-T San Diego keeps a database of all offenses “more serious than a speeding ticket.” The latest being the Aug. 31 arrest of San Francisco 49ers player Ray McDonald “on suspicion of felony domestic violence in San Jose.”

Confidence in Goodell’s leadership ought to be in tatters, too. Fans, particularly female fans and the wives and girlfriends of fans, should be appalled by everything he did and didn’t do in the Rice matter. If Bruce Levenson feels compelled to sell his stake in the Atlanta Hawks basketball team because of a few racial observations in a two-year-old e-mail certainly Goodell should find his way to the exit.

Rice really loves football, especially because of its similarities to military strategy. “I really consider myself a student of the game,” Rice told the Times in that 2002 interview. “I find the strategy and tactics absolutely fascinating.” And in talking about why she coveted the gridiron gig, the foreign policy expert who served two presidents and was provost of Stanford University said, “I think it would be a very interesting job because I actually think football, with all due respect to baseball, is a kind of national pastime that brings people together across social lines, across racial lines. And I think it’s an important American institution.”

It’s an institution in dire need of her help.

I wasn’t a fan of Rice when she was Secretary of State, when she did the bidding of a clueless president, but she would solve so many of the NFL’s PR problems — talk about a war on women! — and substantive problems that she deserves the job.

And, hey, if she fails the NFL can go back to the old boys club. I am sure Joe Banner would be honored for the consideration.

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