That’s right: Rice, the former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, and rabid football fan.
It’s very clear that the NFL, a $9 billion industry, has a woman problem even if it doesn’t exactly want to admit it. In the wake of the Ray Rice video controversy, there’s an outcry for the seemingly tone-deaf Goodell to be replaced.
What better way to salvage the image of this country’s number one pastime than with an African-American woman who has stared down Muammar Gaddafi and Vladimir Putin?
Rice has previously said the NFL commissioner post is her dream job. She knows the strategy of the sport and has said she considers herself a “student of the game.”
“I think it would be a very interesting job because I actually think football, with all due respect to baseball, is a kind of national pastime that brings people together across social lines, across racial lines,” Rice said in a 2002 New York Times interview.
“And I think it’s an important American institution,” said Rice, whose father was a football coach.
Rice wouldn’t come to the post just being a fan from the stands. In 2013, Rice became a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee but not without controversy. Former Auburn head coach Pat Dye said of Rice at the time: “All she knows about football is what somebody told her. Or what she read in a book, or what she saw on television. To understand football, you’ve got to play with your hand in the dirt.”
The 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee, of which Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long is the chair, is responsible for selecting the four teams that advance to the College Football Playoff beginning after the 2014 regular season, according to ESPN.com., among other tasks such as weekly rankings.
“Condi definitely earned her spot on this committee,” College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said. “She knows this game, she is a student of this game. … Obviously, part of this is going to be the ability to make judgments under scrutiny, and Condi has that.”
Rice, a native of Alabama, has long been a trailblazer for women.
In 1993, she became the first black female provost at Stanford University. Since leaving the White House, Rice, 59, made sports history when she was one of the first two women chosen for membership at Augusta National Golf Club in 2012. She is now a professor of political economy at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
The NFL needs someone who can scrutinize the league and make hard decisions. Before viral videos and 24/7 social media, the NFL could have hoped that the Ray Rice story would have vanished after a couple of news cycles. That’s not the case now. After all, Ray Rice’s wife, Janay, decided to post her reaction to the maelstrom on Tuesday via Instagram, letting the story live for at least another day or five. On Tuesday afternoon, Rice texted a message to CNN saying, “I’m just holding strong for my wife and kid.” Clearly, this couple doesn’t want to leave the limelight anytime soon.
An entity that is as beloved as the NFL deserves someone who knows how to stick to their guns, realize the risks of ignoring problems and strategically extinguish firestorms in a logical way. That’s Rice. And yes, she just happens to be a woman.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt” and “1000 Best Bartender’s Recipes.” She writes frequently for Reuters, TakePart, and numerous other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker.