Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should “seriously” consider resigning because of the way the league handled penalizing former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice.
“I think he should consider it seriously,” Heitkamp said when asked by The Hill Tuesday if Goodell should step down.
Heitkamp’s remarks are among the strongest so far from lawmakers calling for Goodell to vacate his position over the league’s response to domestic violence charges against the star running back.
Rice was dropped by the Ravens and indefinitely suspended by the National Football League on Monday, after new video emerged on TMZ.com showing him punching his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City, N.J., elevator.
There was immediate outrage Monday once the graphic video surfaced. The NFL had indicated it had not viewed the footage before Monday.
An earlier video showed Rice dragging an unconscious Janay Rice, who is now married to the football player, from the elevator, but that only led to a two-game suspension for Rice, which was also derided by many as too weak a penalty earlier this year.
As questions continue to mount over the league’s handling of the incident, support also seems to be growing for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to potentially take over as NFL commissioner.
A Tuesday editorial in The Washington Post stated that the NFL is “an institution in dire need” of Rice’s help, with a blaring headline: “Condi Rice: The one person who could save the NFL.”
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,’ ” referring to the commissioner then.
Social media has also been buzzing with calls for Goodell, the son of the late Sen. Charles Goodell (R-N.Y.), to step down in favor of Rice.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) had called on the NFL to impose a harsher punishment against the 27-year-old running back but on Tuesday stopped short of calling for Goodell’s ouster.
“I think there need to be stronger stiffer penalties against criminal assault and domestic violence, whether it’s under this leadership or a different commissioner. But what’s most important is not who is in charge, but what they do,” Blumenthal told The Hill.
Goodell has come under widespread criticism over the Ray Rice controversy, as well as how the NFL has handled a string of violent incidents involving its players. He said last month in a letter to owners that he “didn’t get it right” when it came to the Rice punishment decision.
The NFL is also facing questions about how it is handling head injuries to current and former players, and to links between head trauma and violence by players.
A Tuesday post on Grantland.com titled “What does it take to get Roger Goodell fired” blasted the commissioner’s handling of domestic violence issues within the league, saying of Goodell: “It may not be Goodell’s job to solve domestic violence, but it’s definitely his job to make sure that scenario doesn’t happen. At some point, shouldn’t it matter that he’s failing miserably?”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said Tuesday that the NFL “has to be a leader” on domestic violence. Saying he “wasn’t prepared to say” Goodell should resign, Cardin said the league has “certainly learned from its mistakes. But we’ll see how it moves forward in these issues.”
“It’s heartbreaking,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said when asked about the situation. “I saw some statements by some of the team folks, like it’s not too big a deal, and that made me sicker to my stomach in some ways than the video itself.”
—Niki Papadogiannakis contributed.
This story was posted at 2:22 p.m. and updated at 8:28 p.m.