Prominent voices have called for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s head in the wake of player Ray Rice’s suspension, with some people suggesting a rather unconventional replacement: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona this afternoon left that decision up to NFL owners, but advised Goodell to seek the advice of the former secretary.
Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart went further, arguing Tuesday that Secretary Rice is “the one person who could save the NFL” from its moral quandary and public relations nightmare.
Others, including actor Rob Lowe, have gone on the record to say the NFL should give the job to Rice immediately.
Citing a 2002 New York Times article in which Secretary Rice, 59, said she would “absolutely” like to be commissioner, Capehart said he believes her love of football would pair perfectly with the kind of strategic expertise she honed in the White House and at the State Department.
Rice, who is a professor of political economy and political science at Stanford University in California, declined to comment to ABC News on any remaining interest in taking the helm of one of the world’s most powerful sports organizations.
But the Alabama native hasn’t shied away from involvement in the sports universe of late. She sits on the college football playoff selection committee, was named one of the first female members of the Augusta National Golf Club and is a regular patron of Stanford’s football team.
One road block is Goodell’s grip on the job, which he told CBS News Tuesday he does not believe is slipping. Under Goodell, 55, the league has expanded its revenue and fan base, though at a cost: controversies over concussions, team names, collective bargaining and now domestic violence have led to a more permanent fallout over the NFL’s ethical standing.
Twelve members of the Congressional House Judiciary Committee today called for Goodell to be more transparent in the NFL’s domestic violence policies and reviews.
Notable NFL writers have been open to the possibility of an outsider becoming a league executive, even while acknowledging the long odds.
“This is the context where they’d be most likely to choose someone outside the NFL, as opposed to any other time in the last 20 or 30 years,” said Bill Barnwell, a staff writer for ESPN’s Grantland. “Goodell is an NFL lifer, and you can see that lack of perspective in what’s happened over the past 72 hours. You sort of lose perspective if your life is football.”
Whether former Secretary Rice could pose a challenge to Goodell’s insider credentials is another question.
“Having met [Goodell] and talked to him, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to let outside influences and public perception affect his status,” said Mark Mravic, the assistant managing editor of Sports Illustrated. “I think we have to go back and look at what his real job is; he’s a representative of the owners. He’s beholden to their interests.”
In Mravic’s mind, Rice would be in over her head in handling the more arcane features of league management. The nuts and bolts of the NFL are where Goodell “really excels,” he said.
Rice’s appeal could hinge on her offering a more sophisticated public face to the league and its fans, a more worldly outlook commensurate with her work as secretary of state.
“I do think the league seems to be out of its depths on some of these external issues,” Mravic said. “Is she better equipped to handle these issues? She might be.”