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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines before the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on Sept. 4, 2014 in Seattle.
Kyle Terada—USA Today Sports

The NFL knew. In my personal knowledge of the game of football and the inner workings of the league, I find it nearly impossible to believe that the top brass of the organization didn’t know every bit of this Ray Rice situation from day one. It’s pretty ridiculous to come out now and say, “Oh, we just saw the tape.” The top guys know everything that goes on in their league. You can bet on it.

Clearly, the NFL doesn’t take domestic violence seriously. It certainly doesn’t impose stiff penalties on players who are violent toward their wives or girlfriends. I don’t think Ray Rice thought for one second that he’d have any problem getting away with knocking his then-fiancée unconscious.

To some extent, violence goes with the territory of professional football. When you’re playing a sport where you go out there every day and really let out all your primal instincts as an alpha male, it’s a bit hard to draw back on those things in the real world — especially when placed in certain situations, like a fight or confrontation. And when you’re dealing with alpha males with battered brains, it’s not a good idea to throw a messy home life into the mix.

None of this is to say that there’s any excuse for what Ray Rice did. I was raised a different way. It was always instilled in me that you never lay your hands on a woman.

And this is personal to me for another reason: I have had my own experience with domestic violence accusations. I’ve been through a divorce, and my ex-wife claimed that I had been violent. I look back on it now, and I know there was no physicality. We were just two different personalities, and we — like a lot of couples — simply didn’t get along and found that we butted heads more than we were affectionate to each other.

I know, though, that because of concussions on the field, my brain is battered and impaired in the areas of decision-making and impulse-control and rage. Many football players’ brains are.

Football players deserve a league that will do better than aiding and abetting violence against women. Nobody in the NFL likes to see domestic violence. Nobody wants it around. Everybody — I think even guys like Ray Rice — if they saw it happening, would stand up for women.

Unfortunately, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his brass chose not to stand up. Instead, they decided to deal with this situation behind closed doors. They hoped they wouldn’t be exposed. Without this video, even though we knew exactly what Ray Rice had done, the NFL never would have changed its ruling on his suspension, nor would he have been kicked off his team.

In the age of social media, however, those sorts of tactics work less and less often. The old guard of the NFL can no longer try to sweep situations like this under the rug. They’re going to come to light — as well they should.

Goodell needs to step down. The NFL needs a commissioner who’s going to be proactive instead of reactive. Every situation that Roger Goodell has been in when it comes to managing the National Football League, he’s taken a stance of reaction. Always being on defense has made the NFL look worse — and it’s allowed its problems to fester and become worse than they need to be. It’s time for a commissioner who will play some offense.

Kyle Turley played in the NFL for 10 seasons, for the Saints, the St. Louis Rams, and the Kansas City Chiefs.

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