Olbermann, Stephen A., add to Goodell’s NFL crisis over Ray Rice

A crisis persists if the factors that caused it are not dealt with effectively and quickly.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is finding that out — again.

ESPN commentator Keith Olbermann, in a barbed attack, called on Goodell to lengthen Baltimore Ravens All-Pro running back Ray Rice’s two-game suspension for knocking out his wife in a New Jersey casino elevator.

Meanwhile, ESPN got pulled into the consternation over Goodell’s wrist slap of Rice when it’s staccato host Stephen A. Smith argued Friday that domestic abuse victims bear some responsibility for bringing attacks on themselves. Look for him to go silent for a month or so.

But back to Olbermann, never one to mince words or douse outrage. Parsing an NFL spokesman’s attempt to explain away the crisis, he showed how it was only getting worse. And in an original bit of reporting, he noted that in a June meeting Janay Palmer Rice met with Goodell — and her husband and Ravens’ officials — to discuss the attack. Olbermann made it clear that asking a domestic abuse victim to talk about her level of security in front of her attacker is a violation of every investigatory and ethical standard on the books.

Five days after the news of Rice’s meager suspension broke, there have been daily stories, commentary and pointed questions about the decision. That Goodell sent another league official to answer questions about it Monday only points to the depth of the crisis. When in crisis, you usually want the highest-ranking person — assuming he or she is capable in front of the media, and Goodell certainly is — out front. They need to take public responsibility for the crisis and deliver facts about the decision.

And until all the questions are answered, the crisis will persist.

New York Times media critic Richard Sandomir  had some choice words for Goodell, Rice, ESPN and Smith, right.

Staking out a position for a longer punishment for Rice is not brave. Anyone could see that N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell had been too lenient. But then Smith went verbally reckless.

“In Ray Rice’s case, he probably deserves more than a two-game suspension, which we both acknowledged,” he said, as [co-host Skip] Bayless nodded. “But at the same time, we also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation. Not that there’s real provocation, but the elements of provocation” — at this point, without letting him finish his sentence and as he delved into amateur forensics, you had to wonder which “elements” he was talking about, when women should accept responsibility for being victimized and why those elements do not add up to “real provocation.”

Ironic that a crisis in the NFL, ESPN’s year-round bread and butter, should be ratcheted up by the all-sports, all-promo, all-the-time network.

At least Smith’s ESPN colleague, Michelle Beadle took him to task on Twitter, endangering her own career by pushing up ESPN’s social media policy.

All of this adds up to a black eye not only for Mrs. Rice, but for the league. This weekend is the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony and exhibition game in Canton. Goodell will surely be there. And he’d surely better answer some questions and increase Rice’s suspension or this crisis will haunt him through the season.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.


About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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