In February, one of the most horrific scandals in the history of the NFL took the sports world by storm as Ray Rice, the running back of the Baltimore Ravens, found himself in the middle of a domestic violence incident. Videotape from a security camera outside an elevator caught Rice pushing his then-fiancee (now wife — Janay) and proceeding to drag her unconscious body out of the elevator.
Later on that month, TMZ released this video to the public which started a whirlwind of controversy throughout the NFL. Months after the first tape had been released, TMZ released another video that was even more graphic than the first. The second video became the more controversial of the two as it displayed Rice striking his fiancee from inside the elevator. Although what Ray Rice did was wrong, I believe there is another “criminal” in this case that is just as much at fault for partaking in unethical behavior. His name is Roger Goodell.
Unfortunately, domestic violence incidents have occurred in the NFL before and usually do not receive the amount of attention that this particular incident has, but what made this one in particular so controversial was the way in which Roger Goodell handled the case. As this case developed over the summer, Goodell was caught in the middle of a classic “dirty hands” situation. As you may know, the dirty hands dilemma is one in which an individual does something ethically problematic that will generate good consequences or circumstances in the future. Unfortunately for Roger, these good circumstances did not last long as he was caught in his unethical decision making. So what exactly did he do to get his hands dirty? In September, the Associated Reported that a law enforcement official had contacted an NFL office in an attempt to give the commissioner and his colleagues a copy of the elevator’s security footage — this attempt was in April before the NFL’s ruling on the incident. It was clear that an NFL administrator had received and viewed the tape during that time as they left a voice mail on the law enforcement official’s phone stating, “You’re right. It’s terrible.”
When taking this information into account, it is clear that the NFL’s administration had access to the security footage or at the very least had knowledge of what was specifically on the tape. Even with this information the NFL clearly had no desire to investigate the incident any further. It seems that Roger Goodell simply chose to push the videotape aside and not look into the matter. Although Goodell claims that he had never seen the security footage until its release by TMZ, I find it hard to believe that a videotape as controversial as this one could make it to an NFL office and not be seen by the commissioner. Did the footage just vanish before it got to Goodell’s desk? Or did the employee that received the footage in the first place not pass it on to the commissioner, and if so what kind of operation is the NFL running?
In my mind, it is clear that Roger Goodell was faced with a dirty hands dilemma, and he proceeded to take the unethical route. It appears that in an attempt to maintain the reputation of the NFL, Ravens, and even Ray Rice, Goodell either chose not to act on the footage he received in April after viewing it or he chose to simply not watch the video. Either way Goodell was attempting to do something ethically problematic in order to preserve the reputation of the league. In my opinion, it appears that Goodell simply chose to not watch the security footage as a way of avoiding the controversy as a whole. Not watching the video would allow him to deny ever having seen the video and seemingly “wash his hands” of the matter. He would then also be able to preserve his reputation and the standard of “integrity” that the NFL supposedly holds themselves accountable to. If Goodell had released this video to the public and acted on the incident back in April, the NFL may have lost a large portion of its fan base for the upcoming season. As a way to avoid losing fans (and potential revenue) Goodell chose to not release the information that he was given by the law enforcement official. Ultimately, Roger’s plan backfired, his knowledge of the video was uncovered by the media and he has been exposed for the lack of initiative that he took in investigating this case. Thus creating far worse circumstances for himself than he would have faced had he revealed his knowledge of the video when he first received it.
I believe this case is just one simple, although horrific, example of how the dirty hands dilemma continually comes into play within our society. Individuals are willing to take extreme measures, such as doing something unethical, in order to create or maintain better circumstances in the future. Although I can see some minor advantages to “getting your hands dirty,” I fail to realize why people continually choose to take this unethical route. Clearly these individuals have never heard the old adage, “the truth always comes out.” Why take the risk of committing an unethical act that may end up being your downfall if you’re caught? To me it’s not worth it. Maybe that’s is because I don’t like to gamble as much as a person like Goodell or the fact that I am alright with facing a little adversity, either way I am going to continue to choose to keep my hands clean.