Ray Rice

Free Michael Phelps

This space believes in making things simple and easy. So here it is: Michael Phelps should swim at the 2015 world championships in Kazan, Russia. USA Swimming suspended Phelps for six months in the aftermath of his drunk-driving incident in Maryland last September. That suspension has run, and he will open his 2015 season by swimming this week at a meet in Mesa, Arizona. In addition to that suspension, Phelps and USA Swimming agreed — and “agreed” is putting a spin on it — that he would not be on the U.S. team in Kazan. Now the time has come to fix that.

For every reason you can come up with to keep Phelps off the Kazan team, there are better reasons to send him.

First and foremost, there is this:

The American story is, and forever will be, one of redemption. This is who we are. This is the classic, everlasting story of our country.

In the United States of America, we get not only a second chance, but a third, a fourth, a fifth and more.

If anyone has earned that chance, it’s Michael Phelps.

Phelps is one of the great sports heroes of our time, an imperfect human being — we all are — who has won 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold, inspiring literally millions of boys and girls and grown-ups, too.

About this there can be no debate.

Our funny face pic yesterday at #theboysandgirlsclub What a blast!

A photo posted by Michael Phelps (@m_phelps00) on

Disclaimer: I co-wrote Phelps’ 2008 best-selling book. In writing this column, I have not shared even one word with him.

To recap how we got here, and why there must be reconsideration — not just for Phelps but for USA Swimming and even the U.S. Olympic Committee — that Phelps go to Russia:

On Sept. 30, 2014, Phelps was stopped by Maryland police going 84 in a 45 mph zone. His blood-alcohol level registered 0.14.

This was Phelps’ second DUI offense in 10 years.

For legal purposes, the first DUI, when Phelps was a teenager, was completely immaterial during the second case. For the record, he did 18 months probation. USA Swimming took no action.

In 2009, a few months after going 8-for-8 at the Beijing Games, Phelps, then 23, was photographed with his face in a bong. The picture created a major international stir. USA Swimming suspended him for three months.

Then came the arrest last September. Phelps was arrested amid the media frenzy ignited by the cases involving the NFL players Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and, to a lesser extent, the soccer star Hope Solo, each enveloped in a domestic violence incident.

To be clear, is Phelps super-fortunate no one got hurt? Or worse? Yes, a thousand times over.

Now: was Phelps involved in a domestic violence case? No.

Was it thus apples to apples? No.

Was it his incredibly poor judgment to get behind the wheel of a car, impaired, when the harsh media spotlight had turned on high-profile athletes? Yes.

Was there thus pressure on USA Swimming and the USOC, especially given the intensity of the focus on the Rice and Peterson matters, in particular, to bring the hammer down on Phelps? Absolutely.

Was Phelps in any sort of position, given that intensity, to argue at the time — even though he and everyone else involved knew that the best thing for him was to go to treatment, which was where he was, in fact, headed — about any of the elements of the six-month plus Kazan deal? Hardly.

Was there, as this space pointed out at the time, a rush to judgment? You bet.

When can it be said that a rush to judgment ever proves positive?

Now that time has run:

Rice and the Baltimore Ravens have settled his grievance for $1.588 million, and Rice is eligible to play again in the NFL.

Peterson is eligible for reinstatement on Wednesday.

The domestic violence charges against Solo were dismissed in January. A few days later, she was back in the news in connection with a drunken driving incident involving her husband, ex-NFL player Jerramy Stevens, that led US Soccer to suspend her for 30 days.

At the Algarve Cup in Portugal in March, a key tune-up for this summer’s women’s World Cup, who was that making the incredible late-game save to preserve her 81st international shutout in leading the United States over France, 2-0, for the title? For sure — Solo.

To be clear, one of the reasons to see Phelps swim in Kazan is what would likely happen in the pool. Reports from swim insiders say Phelps is hugely motivated — he is said to be practicing the way he did in 2007 and 2008 — and there is perhaps no sight in sports like Phelps roaring down the pool in the back half of his races.

There is also this: the U.S. team needs Phelps if it has any hopes of winning the 400 freestyle relay the way it did in Beijing in 2008. That’s the race he watched — from the stands — with dismay at the 2013 world championships in Barcelona. You only get so many chances to practice this relay before Rio in 2016.

Beyond that, there is this:

In a weird way, the September DUI arrest may have been the best thing that ever happened to Phelps. It got him to treatment. It forced him to look, and hard, at who he is and what he is doing.

In the months since leaving treatment, he has gotten engaged. He has been a model citizen. Everyone who has been in contact with him has remarked about how he has grown up.

In London, and that was before all this, Phelps was a veteran team leader at the 2012 Games. Wouldn’t you want Phelps 2.0, and this kind of hard-won life experience, on your team in Kazan?

Having reviewed the USA Swimming selection criteria, it is abundantly plain that it would indeed be a complex process — a number of dominoes would need to fall in just the right way — to get Phelps on the Kazan team. But, as always, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Now for some real-life politics, because there are plenty of intersecting currents to factor into the dynamic as well:

USA Swimming and FINA, the international governing body for swimming, are currently not — shall we say — on the best of terms. There are a variety of reasons why, but for this conversation it’s enough to leave it at this: things are business-like.

And to not have Phelps in Russia? FINA is not happy to begin with. Now you throw in the prospect that the best American swimmer ever would not be at its marquee event?

Everyone knows, meanwhile, that the USOC wants to put forward a Summer Games bid for 2024.

Not everyone knows, however, that John Leonard, who is an influential U.S. swim coach, has for months now been leading a largely behind-the-scenes campaign aimed at reforming FINA.

FINA has opted not to respond in public to the Leonard campaign.

The point of bringing up Leonard’s campaign here is not to debate its merits. It’s to put it in a different context.

The president of FINA, Julio Cesar Maglione of Uruguay, was just this past weekend elected interim president of the Pan-American Sports Organization.

Maglione is a key and dependable ally of International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach’s.

Maglione is 79. Elected FINA president in 2009, he was re-elected in 2013. Now there is serious talk that he wants a third term; to do so would require a rules change.

Leonard’s campaign is wondering, among other things, how this can be.

The answer: it’s all part of a complex geopolitical strategy involving interests beyond Maglione with close ties to the IOC president. This strategy might take all of a presumed third Maglione third term to play out. Or just part of it. In that scenario, which leadership at USA Swimming understands full well already, U.S. influence at FINA's top levels might well be further considerably diminished.

This is no small matter. For revenue purposes, swimming is now what's called a Tier "A" sport in the Olympic movement, along with gymnastics and track and field -- in large measure because of the import of Phelps.

Leonard is doing what he justifiably feels is in the right.

In the meantime, the Leonard campaign is not doing a 2024 U.S. Olympic bid any favors — see above, FINA not happy with USA Swimming to begin with.

Moving on:

Understand always that Vladimir Putin made the first call to Bach when Bach was elected IOC president. These Kazan swim championships are a key element in Putin’s strategy to make Russia a world sports destination — along with Sochi 2014 and soccer’s 2018 World Cup.

To reiterate: to not have the biggest star in swimming at the biggest show in swimming? How in the world, come voting time for the 2024 bid, is that going to help the United States? Don’t fool yourselves. Russia is a big deal in the Olympic sphere and people have long memories when it comes time to vote.

Moving on once more:

Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte are awesome swimmers. But without Phelps, who in the United States is likely to watch a swim world championships — from Kazan or anywhere — on television?

Answer: virtually no one.

Need evidence? Lochte is, truly, a great guy. But there's a reason his reality-TV show was quickly canceled.

If Phelps doesn’t swim in Kazan, it’s a simple matter to look at the calendar and see he would have to swim instead at the U.S. nationals in San Antonio. They’re Aug. 6-10. The swim schedule in Kazan runs Aug. 2-9. Why the two events run simultaneously is a long, and separate, story.

A San Antonio nationals would feature Phelps, Allison Schmitt, Natalie Coughlin and dozens of others — apologies — recognizable mostly to their coaches and parents.

Phelps has for more than a dozen years now said his goal is to grow the sport of swimming. How would limiting him to San Antonio accomplish any of that?

That’s not just a rhetorical question.

It’s way better all around for leadership at USA Swimming to take a deep breath, work out the complexities of the selection process, acknowledge the obvious and get the guy who virtually by himself since 2000 has elevated swimming into the top tier in the Olympic scene back where he belongs.

With the best in the world.

What's next for Michael Phelps


Michael Phelps is not a bad guy. Let’s start there. In fact, he’s a really, really good guy. He cares — deeply — about his family, his coaches, the people who have been with him for years, his hometown, his country and his sport. He is, genuinely, great with kids. He is, truly, a normal guy who found a genius for swimming and competing.

By driving drunk, according to the allegations levied against him by the authorities in Maryland, Michael made a really bad mistake. Perhaps the hardest piece: Michael has said many, many times, often to audiences of kids, that it’s OK to make a mistake — the trick is not to make the same mistake twice. Now, in the wake of his DUI problem 10 years ago, he has made the very same mistake, all over again.

The separate DUI incidents — of course, Michael is entitled to the presumption of innocence in regard to his arrest this week — are compounded by the 2009 episode in which he was photographed with his face in a bong.

Phelps was stopped at 1:40 a.m. Tuesday after leaving the brand-new Horseshoe Casino in downtown Baltimore, allegedly going 84 in a 45 zone. His blood-alcohol level was a reported 0.14, above the legal limit of 0.08.

The incident leads to all manner of questions, concerns and what-to-do’s — for Michael, USA Swimming, the U.S. Olympic Committee, Michael’s sponsors and everyone anywhere with an interest in the greatest Olympic athlete of all time.

That is, indisputably, what Michael is.

And that, actually, is at the core of all of this.

Former Baltimore Ravens defensive back Ed Reed, left, with Michael Phelps at M&T Bank Stadium last month // photo Getty Images

Michael is 29 now. Old enough, assuredly smart enough to know better, to have the judgment to call Uber. A taxi. A friend. Something or someone.

Michael’s first DUI came when he was 19, in November 2004, after the Athens Games. At that time in his life, as he has said, post-Games he had no structure, no routine. He was on a road trip to Maryland’s Eastern Shore with a friend. He had three beers. His blood-alcohol reading was precisely 0.08.

He pleaded guilty a month later in Salisbury, Maryland, to driving while impaired; was ordered to pay $305 in fines and court costs; to attend a meeting of Mothers Against Drunk Driving; and to speak at a number of schools about drinking, driving and decision-making.

USA Swimming did not suspend him.

The experience would lead Michael to Greg Harden, the longtime associate athletic director and director of athletic counseling at the University of Michigan. Harden gave Michael the advice that Michael would internalize, would make his own, would repeat as if it were a mantra:

It’s OK to make a mistake. Whenever you make a mistake, learn from it. If you learn from a mistake, you’ll be fine. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.

Among the challenges Michael is facing is that he has now violated his own code.

Michael and I worked together on his 2008 best-selling book and for sure we have long had a constructive relationship. We have not spoken this week. But I know him well enough to feel confident that no one feels worse about what happened than Michael.

I know, too, that he will deal with whatever is to come forthrightly. That is his way.

The issue is, what is appropriate?

Michael is a Baltimore guy through and through. He spent a few years in Ann Arbor, prepping for the 2008 Beijing Olympics while his longtime coach and mentor, Bob Bowman, was the head coach at the university. But now they are both back in Baltimore.

Michael is not — will never be — Hollywood. He is, for emphasis, a normal guy. He is happy to be in Baltimore, cheering on his Ravens like most everybody else there.

The deal is this, though: it may not be the best time to be a high-profile athlete facing the bar of justice in Baltimore, what with Ray Rice in the news. Under the law, Michael’s first DUI is irrelevant. At the same time, Michael has to accept that he might draw a judge who wants to make an example of him.

Beyond the legal ramifications, there is the matter of USA Swimming, indeed the Olympic establishment.

USA Swimming suspended him for three months for the 2009 episode. Now?

USA Today’s Christine Brennan suggested in a column Wednesday that Michael ought to be suspended for at least a year. She called his behavior “unconscionable.”

With due respect to my good friend Christine — she and I are from the same class at the Northwestern journalism school— her suggestion is over the top.

To compare:

The NFL suspended Donté Stallworth for a year after he pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter charges in Florida. On March 14, 2009, in Miami, Stallworth killed a man while driving drunk.

To be clear, driving while impaired — again, Phelps is innocent until proven guilty — is bad no matter the circumstance.

In Stallworth’s case, for context, Stallworth’s blood-alcohol level was 0.126 and, of course, Mario Reyes, a construction worker who was simply trying to catch a bus home, is forever gone.

A prosecution video in the Stallworth case shows Stallworth braking immediately after Reyes ran into the street, outside the crosswalk — meaning, Stallworth has said, that even if sober he likely would have hit Reyes. But as Stallworth said in an interview this past summer, “.. I was wrong. I was driving under the influence and should not have been.”

Now, the argument is that Phelps should be gone for a year when no one -- luckily, true -- got hurt?

Things have to remain in proportion.

USA Swimming has said it’s assessing the situation.

It seems probable that Michael is going to be fined — other athletes are going to want to see that no one is above the rules, especially Michael — and suspended for some period of time. The issue is when and for how long. The 2015 world championships are next summer in Russia.

This leads to the crux of the matter, for all involved.

Michael has a boredom problem. The boredom problem creates a structure problem. The overarching problem is that there's a future problem.

It’s little wonder he is out presumably playing poker — which he enjoys — and, as he purportedly said to the police, having three or four drinks when he should have been in bed getting ready to swim.

Again, here is the deal:

Michael is the greatest of all time. He has 22 Olympic medals.

In Beijing, he went eight-for-eight. It was — incredible.

To do what he did in Beijing took years of monumental discipline, effort, focus and training. (Not to mention an awe-inspiring back-end split from Jason Lezak in the 400-meter freestyle relay.) Who wants to do that all over again? For sure not Michael.

This is the dilemma.

Michael knows that if he puts in the work that he can again be the world’s best swimmer — in certain races. But never again will he do what he did in Beijing. This is a terrible burden. For real. What must it be like to be great but never again as across-the-board great as you once were?

Michael talks about setting new goals. But swimming is the most relentlessly revealing of the Olympic sports. At the elite level, the sport is merciless in making clear whether an athlete has put in the work. You win -- or lose -- by hundredths of a second.

This is, in one fashion or another, what Michael has been wrestling with since the day the Beijing Games ended.

You saw it in 2011, at the world championships in Shanghai, where Ryan Lochte had put in the work, and Michael had not. In 2012, Michael tried the 400-meter individual medley, which he used to rule, and didn’t even medal — because he hadn’t trained sufficiently.

After the 400 IM, it became plain in London that Michael had done enough — just enough — to still star. But because he hadn’t really done everything he could have, he got out-touched by five-hundredths of a second in the 200 butterfly by Chad le Clos of South Africa — an ending that depended on feel in the water, feel that Phelps would have had, did have, in the 100 fly in Beijing, which he won by one-hundredth of a second over Serbia’s Milorad Cavic.

After London, Michael said, enough.

Then he watched the Americans come up short in the 400 free relay at the 2013 worlds in Barcelona and something stirred.

So he kinda-sorta came back.

Then, this year, he came back for real — and did very well at the Pan-Pacific championships in August in Australia, winning three gold medals and two silvers.

The good thing about the comeback is it gives Michael structure. He needs that sort of structure.

But obviously he's not yet all-in. On the road at 1:40 a.m.?

At the same time, and this must be said, this comeback is only prolonging the inevitable.

If Michael keeps swimming through 2016, it seems hugely unlikely that he would not make the U.S. team for Rio. Everyone says, like this is a bad thing, he’d be 31 by the start of those Games, in August, 2016. So what? He’s Michael. He's the best-ever. If he wants it, he will do it -- emphasis on the if.

Who, though, is Michael? Really, who is he? Not Michael the swimmer. Michael Phelps. At 29, who is he? And what is he all about?

Michael should take a good look at the guy looking back at him in the mirror and say, OK, what's the next chapter?

If he can do that, this DUI episode could — in a weird way — turn out to be a huge positive. Again, Michael should count his blessings that no one got hurt. He should not just count this as, but legitimately come to see this as, a second chance -- at everything.

He has it all, you say?

Not really. Michael doesn't know what he wants to do with himself.

When Michael was 16, he had the audacity to tell Peter Carlisle, who would go on to be his agent — still is his agent — that his goal was to grow the sport of swimming. He could see that already.

He hasn’t been able with the same clarity to articulate anything else. That’s where the drift has come. Now is the time to figure it out — especially if there is to be a suspension.

It seems reasonable to assume that, however this shakes out, Michael is going to find himself doing community service. And part of that service will involve speaking to kids. And those kids are going to ask, Michael, you always said it was OK to make a mistake but not to make it twice — what do you say now?

And if the other part of the code is learning from every mistake -- what are the lessons from this one?

Now is the time to figure all this out. Because that is a huge part of this next chapter. Of being accountable to himself and to everyone around him -- because he is normal, and yet in some respects his life is not normal and likely never will be. Of figuring out who Michael Phelps is, and what his next direction holds.

Enough with trial by court of public opinion


Enough already with trial by court of public opinion. All around. We have courts — real courts, of law — to dispense justice. That’s what they’re for. You can like Hope Solo, or not. But her case is not like that involving Ray Rice. The notion that the two matters are the same, or ought to be treated the same, or that the U.S. Olympic Committee ought to do something in the Solo case, and do it now, because of some notion of equality or of leveling the playing field in sports thoroughly and completely misses the point.

It also fundamentally ignores reality.

The USOC -- which convenes this week in Chicago for its annual assembly -- can’t just whomp around like an 800-pound gorilla. There are laws that define what it can, and can’t, do.

Goalie Hope Solo before last week's US-Mexico match // photo Getty Images

Which is exactly the point that seems to be lost in all the shouting over the past couple days and weeks amid the Rice matter and, more recently, as it has dawned anew on columnists — including some of the leading voices in the United States — as well as on the Twitter mob that Solo is herself facing domestic violence charges.

It’s simple.

The United States is a nation rooted, fundamentally, in the law. We can agree, or disagree, about whether the law is applied appropriately in a particular case or not — but, big picture, that is the essence of the thing.

To continue, the law is not a one-size-fits-all. In each case, the idea is that the law is applied to specific facts. And, in each case, the accused — this is crucial — is afforded due process.

Rice, in a February altercation, assaulted his wife-to-be, Janay, at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The next month, a grand jury indicted him on felony charges of aggravated assault. At the risk of being obvious, a felony is punishable by a year or more in custody — which means state prison. We now know, thanks to TMZ, that Rice punched his fiancee in a casino elevator, knocking her unconscious.

In May, prosecutors agreed to allow Rice to enter into a pretrial diversion program, which will allow him to avoid prosecution, assuming he successfully completes the program. Typically, it takes about a year.

Solo, meanwhile, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of misdemeanor domestic violence stemming from a June incident at Solo’s sister’s home in Kirkland, Washington.

Just to pause for a second.

A misdemeanor involves a crime punishable by a year or less behind bars — that is, in county jail.

So, just to start, there’s a huge difference.


According to documents obtained by the Seattle Times, Solo charged her 17-year-old nephew, punched him in the face and tackled him. When the boy’s mother tried to intervene, Solo attacked her, too.

Police said in an affidavit that when they arrived on the scene, the boy’s T-shirt was torn and he had scratch marks on his arms and a bleeding cut on his ear.

The Seattle Times account says this, too:

"When the teen’s mother tried to intervene, Solo attacked her as well, the document says. The teen tried to pull Solo off his mother and then broke a wooden broom over her head, the document says."

The "her" in that sentence is Hope Solo. So she got a broom broken over her head, at least according to that account. Solo's attorney says she is the victim in the case, according to the newspaper.

Now there may be all kinds of reasons for U.S. Soccer to assess Hope Solo’s conduct, in this instance and over the years. But to say that the federation ought to be spurred to action now because Ray Rice beat up his fiancee in an elevator?

Ladies and gentlemen, Hope Solo has pleaded not guilty. She is due the presumption of innocence.

Indeed, on Tuesday evening, on her Facebook page, Solo had this to say: "... while I understand that the public desires more information regarding the allegations against me, I continue to maintain my innocence against these charges. And, once all the facts come to light and the legal process is concluded, I am confident that I will be fully exonerated."

What if, at trial, it turns out there are extenuating circumstances? Unreliable witnesses? Flimsy evidence? What about the broom? When in all of it did that take place, and what might -- or might not -- a jury think about that?

The Seattle Times report says the boy alleges Solo had been drinking. It also says the 17-year-old "got an old gun that did not work" and pointed it at Solo to try to get her to stop. Police, according to the newspaper account, determined it was a broken BB gun.

What if a jury of her peers finds Solo not guilty of the charges against her? What then? If U.S. Soccer moves decisively now, and she is found not guilty -- should she be punished all these months for what would turn out to be no sound legal reason?

“Abuse in all forms is unacceptable,” the chief executive officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Scott Blackmun, wrote USA Today in an email earlier this week.

“The allegations involving Ms. Solo are disturbing and are inconsistent with our expectations of Olympians. We have had discussions with U.S. Soccer and fully expect them to take action if it is determined that the allegations are true.”

For sure.

But until then, the USOC is not the NFL, and U.S. Soccer is not the Baltimore Ravens. That’s not how the real world works.

The USOC is not in the position of dictating to a national governing body how to run its affairs. Indeed, the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act prevents that very thing.

Here’s the deal:

Outrage is one thing. Justice is another. Hope Solo is due her day in court. It’s coming in November. Until then, a little calm, please, and a lot more reasonableness all around. It’s good for everyone.


On the NFL, Ray Rice and leadership


When he was running the Salt Lake City Olympic Games, so this was obviously more than a dozen years ago, Mitt Romney had a saying that bore on the astute reflections of the ladies and gentlemen of the press. It traced to his Mormon forebears, who had come across the prairies in covered wagons. “The dogs may bark,” Romney would say when the newspapers would be filled with one story after another as the Games struggled to recover from the scandal linked to Salt Lake’s winning bid for the 2002 Games, “but the caravan moves on.”

The leadership of any high-profile sports enterprise can be said, in one way or another, to be an exercise in ongoing crisis management.

Now it is NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s turn in the white-hot spotlight.

Ray Rice during a pre-season game in August // photo Getty Images

He and the league are suddenly wrestling with a rapid-fire succession of cases linked to domestic violence and allegations of child abuse. In concert, they underscore the NFL’s unique place in American culture even as they also frame significant questions going forward about issues such as due process that remain at the core of the American experience — issues that absolutely need to be addressed, quietly, with reason and certitude, amid all the shouting.

On Sept. 8, the Baltimore Ravens released running back Ray Rice and the league suspended him indefinitely after the website TMZ posted a video showing him punching his future wife, Janay, in an elevator.

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Vikings placed Adrian Peterson, another of the league’s standout running backs, who is facing child abuse charges in Texas, on the exempt-commissioner’s list. Peterson is alleged to have whipped his 4-year-old son with a “switch,” or a tree branch. That same day, the Carolina Panthers took the same action with defensive lineman Greg Hardy; he was found guilty of domestic violence in a case involving his girlfriend in July. Hardy is appealing.

Also Wednesday, Arizona Cardinals backup running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested on charges of aggravated assault against his wife and 17-month-old son and four other counts, all from incidents that took place in July. Police allege he head-butted her after she refused sex. The Cardinals immediately deactivated Dwyer, putting him on the reserve/non-football illness list; he is now ineligible to play for the team this season.

The Rice case has been, by far, the most prominent matter, because the elevator video is so provocative. It has served as a lighting rod for Goodell’s leadership under pressure — offering lessons, good and not so, for the league and for others, both in the United States and worldwide, confronting a major issue, and in real time.

The prime takeaway from the Salt Lake scandal, which erupted in late 1998, is that leaders and institutions need to be as transparent and accountable as possible.

In this regard, Goodell has assuredly made some missteps.

At the same time, he also has — despite the many critics, their voices amplified by social media — done some things right.

Starting from the obvious: domestic violence and child abuse are never acceptable.

Now, some of the the not-so-good:

— In July, Rice was given a two-game suspension under the NFL’s personal conduct policy following a Feb. 15 altercation with his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City, N.J., casino elevator. That was too lenient — particularly for a league seeking to attract female fans.

— Critically, Goodell did not go after the in-elevator tape diligently enough. As commissioner, for instance, could he have used more leverage with Rice’s defense attorney? Goodell and the Ravens say they never saw the video before Sept. 8.

— Shortly after the TMZ video emerged, Goodell sat down for a one-on-one interview with CBS News. He hasn’t been heard from since. He needs to make himself available for a news conference. I was there at the hotel in suburban Chicago the day Goodell was elected commissioner. He’s good at news conferences. Have the NFL PR office give everyone with a press pass in New York 60 — heck, make it 90 — minutes notice. That’s more than enough.

In that CBS interview, Goodell said the league is “particularly reliant” on law enforcement for evidence. Unsaid is that TMZ, which is at its core a celebrity-news website, gets its stuff wherever it gets it — and maybe it pays for it and maybe it doesn’t. This leads, however, to a fascinating — albeit fundamental — question:

Do we really want employers to buy evidence regarding activities their employees are involved in outside the workplace?

Or what about this:

Consider Dwyer’s sudden ineligibility. If you go about suspending everyone who is accused of a crime, what about due process? And this, too: millions of dollars are bet, some of it legally, on the NFL. If players are suddenly being forced out because of accusations of domestic violence — what happens if such accusations are made on false, flimsy or thin evidence? Or, worse — if an accuser is being paid off by a gambler?

These are the sorts of difficult, nuanced questions that demand experience — and relationships forged over time — to sift through.

Goodell, despite cries that he should step down or be fired, seems increasingly unlikely to go anywhere.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, right, on the field in Seattle before the first regular-season game of the year -- four days before TMZ posted the elevator video of Ray Rice and his then-fiance // photo Getty Images

Though Anheuser-Busch, a major NFL sponsor, earlier this week said it was “increasingly concerned” over reports of NFL player domestic violence, the chief executive of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, late Wednesday issued a statement calling some players’ behavior “repugnant” but describing Goodell as a “man of integrity.”

Such praise from the female CEO of the maker of Pepsi, Gatorade and Doritos — and the sponsor of last year’s Super Bowl halftime show — is notable.

Meanwhile, another major sponsor, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, issued a statement that said the NFL had reached out to the company several weeks ago and has “been working behind the scenes to develop and implement problems that will address the [domestic violence] problem at its root.”

These sponsors, and others, understand that in fact Goodell has shown leadership amid the storm.

— Goodell actually has levied punishment on Rice. After the video emerged, he suspended him indefinitely from the league — a suspension the NFL Players Association is now challenging, asserting Rice’s due process rights. Query: has anyone else punished Rice? The criminal justice system? In May, Rice was accepted into a pretrial diversion program, which meant he would avoid prosecution, assuming he successfully completes the program (it usually takes about a year).

— The big thing: after initially assessing the two-game penalty, Goodell began meeting with domestic violence experts and advocates. He then conceded he’d made a mistake and issued not just a personal but an organizational apology, acknowledging he “didn’t get it right.”

Under a new NFL policy announced in August, first-time domestic violence offenders would face six-game suspensions and repeat offenders would be suspended indefinitely.

Intriguingly, this sort of thoughtful honesty and analysis is precisely the sort of thing we say we want in our leaders. Yet when they actually do it, far too many critics are incredibly quick to use it as a weapon against them.

Just one question: why?