Politics & Government

Could the Ray Rice scandal lead to Condi Rice’s rise to NFL?

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice laughs after autographing a football following her visit with the Cleveland Browns coaches and players. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice laughs after autographing a football following her visit with the Cleveland Browns coaches and players. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File) Associated Press file

Could embattled National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell's pain be former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's gain?

As a drumbeat slowly rolls for Goodell's removal as NFL commissioner with each twist of the scandal surrounding the domestic abuse tape of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, a growing bipartisan chorus is suggesting that Condoleezza Rice should become NFL commissioner.

If that occurred, she would be the first African-American and the first female to head one of North America’s four major sports leagues which includes the NFL, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball.

Rice, who served as President George W. Bush’s secretary of state and national security advisor during his two terms, has long described being NFL commissioner as her dream job.

She is a football fan: her office in the White House was adorned with helmets from NFL and college teams and other football memorabelia. She has some experience dealing with football from her days as Stanford University’s provost from 1993 to 1999. She was friends with the late Eugene Upshaw, former executive director of the NFL Players Association and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

With the video of Ray Rice knocking out his now-wife, Janay Palmer, with one punch in an Atlantic City casino hotel playing over and over in the 24-hour news cycle; with an independent investigation by former FBI director Robert Mueller into the NFL’s handling of the incident; and with members of Congress urging the NFL to toughen its domestic violence policy several pundits, politicos, and women’s rights advocates are calling for change in the league’s leadership.

And some are saying that Condoleezza Rice is the woman for the job. She’s been mum on the subject since the Ray Rice video surfaced, but disparate voices from the political left and right have made pitches for her recently. Jonathan Capehart, a liberal Washington Post editorial columnist, wrote that the NFL is ‘an institution in dire need of her help.

At the other end of the political spectrurm, Bush strategist Karl Rove, who sometimes clashed with Rice in the White House, added his amen for her taking the helm of the NFL.

‘I think Condi would succeed in any job she had, as she did when she was National Security Advisor, Secretary of State, Provost at Stanford, etc.,’ Rove told BuzzFeed. ‘If it’s a job she wants, her encyclopedic knowledge of the sport and passion for the game, I have no doubt she’d be great.’

And Fox News analyst Juan Williams has the fever for Condi Rice as NFL commissioner.

‘At its most basic level, the job of the NFL commissioner is to manage brash, powerful, ego-driven men – owners, advertisers, players and union representatives,’ Williams wrote. ‘If the big boys in Washington like (former Vice President Dick) Cheney and (former Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld didn’t intimidate Condi, then neither will the boys club of the NFL.’

She’s already gained entry into one former boys club. She was one of two women awarded membership in the Augusta National Golf Club – home of the Master’s golf tournament - in 2012 after years of protests over the club’s refusal to admit women.