Roger Goodell, Ray Rice and the Artificially Generated Stampede

goodell1In February of 2014, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice physically assaulted his then fiance in an Atlantic City, NJ casino elevator.  He knocked her completely unconscious with a single blow to the head.  The NFL “investigated” the matter and Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a 2-game suspension after Rice entered into a pretrial domestic violence intervention program that would lead to the dismissal of a third-degree aggravated assault charge.

A video of the actual attack, released by celebrity website TMZ, surfaced on September 8, 2014.  After the public outrage, Goodell came under intense fire for his “slap on the wrist” punishment.  Goodell would later concede, “I didn’t get it right.  Simply put, we have to do better.  And we will.”

Ravens ownership expressed similar sentiment.  “Seeing that video changed everything.  We should have seen it earlier.  We should have pursued our own investigation more vigorously.  We didn’t and we were wrong.”

But people wanted to know more.  They wanted to know if Goodell, or anyone affiliated with the NFL had seen the “knockout” video.  Furthermore, they wanted to know why the NFL never tried to get their hands on it.  Keep in mind that Goodell was quick to acknowledge the existence of such a tape.  Wouldn’t logic and mere curiosity dictate a more thorough investigation?

With all their Department of Homeland Security connections… with all their security consultants and former Secret Service/FBI employees… with all their reach and influence… are we really to believe that the NFL could not have secured the videotape?  Or is it more likely they didn’t WANT to view it?

Common sense is a hot commodity these days.  This seems like a case of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

I think it’s fairly obvious that the NFL front office was facing a lose-lose proposition.  The interests of league officials would be better served if everyone remained in the dark.  Hence, they chose to avoid the most damning video evidence.  At the very least, there was a concerted attempt to limit the case’s exposure and ignore the wider social impact of domestic violence.  However, Goodell and the NFL brass are quickly discovering a harsh reality.  In the current age of Orwellian technology (video surveillance, location and data tracking, electronic storage, voicemails, etc.), maintaining an aura of plausible deniability is becoming more and more difficult.

As commissioner, Goodell’s main function is to “protect the shield.”  It’s a term he often uses — a subliminal reference to the NFL logo and integrity of the league.  Regrettably, there’s an asymmetric national security issue that few in the NFL are willing to acknowledge.  It’s a matter of common sense and public safety.  But this one involves a traumatic blow to the psyche of an entire nation… as well as mankind.

I sense some very dangerous parallels with the handling of the Ray Rice incident and the prospect of artificially generated stampedes in NFL stadiums.  I’ve noticed a broad consensus when it comes to “discussing the undiscussable.”  All of my research indicates a collective, unspoken arrangement to steer clear of talking about extremely negative outcomes.  Why you ask?  Two words — plausible deniability.

Simply stated, there are 50,000+ active cell phones in any NFL stadium.  These mobile devices are capable of transmitting and receiving panic-inducing information and phony evacuation orders in an infinite number of ways.  If things take a turn for the worse, it could result in a dominipede (multiple, simultaneous human stampedes).  These aren’t the concerns of anti-terrorism experts or criminal conspirators.  They’re the concerns of an astute 4th grader.

What really worries me here is the NFL’s proven track record, especially when you reflect on the concussion issue.  The league is still reeling from a near billion dollar settlement in the concussion class action lawsuit.  In this case, generating revenue appeared to take precedence over player health and safety concerns.  After decades, the truth about traumatic brain injuries finally came out.  When stalling became an indefensible strategy and denying the problem became a joke in and of itself, the NFL had no other choice but to address the matter.  But they didn’t do it willingly.  They were dragged kicking and screaming by a formidable army of lawyers, players and physicians.

Roger Goodell has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller (2001-2013) to launch an investigation into the NFL’s handling of its own investigation.  Even though Mueller is familiar with the concept of simultaneous disasters (planes crashing into buildings), I’m not sure he’s the best candidate for the job.  In 2012, I took my concerns about artificially generated stampedes to the FBI.  I never heard back from them.

With an artificially generated stampede, or worst case scenario dominipede, you’re not afforded the opportunity to do better or get it right.  There is no second chance.  And there’s no time to consult with your attorneys.  In fact, there’s no time at all.  My chief concern has never been the existence of a single video.  It’s the future existence of thousands of videos.