It's 'inconceivable' to me that Goodell saw Rice tape

After the latest revelations about what happened in a New Jersey casino elevator in February — an unspeakably violent act by NFL player Ray Rice toward his fiancée — what determines whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stays or goes?

Roger Goodell
Kyle Terada | USA TODAY Sports | Reuters
Roger Goodell

First is the issue of the NFL's corporate culture and its leadership standards and practices.

If the elevator surveillance tape revealing that Rice knocked his fiancée out cold was in the NFL offices by April, as new sources claim, it's bad management — and worse leadership. I have known and worked with Roger Goodell for 15 years, and it's inconceivable to me that Goodell, as the so-called "Law Enforcement Commissioner," would give someone a two-game suspension after seeing that video. But it is also likely that, based on the evidence released by the Associated Press on Wednesday, someone within his organization had the footage in hand.

Read More Roger Goodell: We asked for Ray Rice video on multiple occasions

You don't have to have a Harvard MBA to know that in any organization, good leadership begins at the top—and in the world's best organizations, the CEO leads by example. Part of good leadership is exhibiting courage, precise decision-making skills, honesty, and transparency. Goodell may well have mastered all those skills. With the latest revelations around the Rice incident, it's clear that he has not passed them on to his underlings—or at least that they didn't get the memo.

Second, the NFL needs to face its acute woman problem. And I'm not just talking about the tragic fact that far too many of its players keep assaulting women. The league needs to invest far more time, energy, and money into sensitivity training for its players, who are raised in a violent sport and too many of whom come from backgrounds lacking exemplary male role models.

Read MoreGoodell had 'tin ear' to Rice controversy: Agent

On the business front, the NFL currently boasts an avid fan base that skews 41-percent female, an all-time high. Millions of women play fantasy football, purchase NFL-branded apparel, and wield the household purchasing power for the products promoted by the NFL's sponsors and advertisers.

Time and again, the NFL has tripped over its own pink-clad feet where women are concerned, from overplaying its hand each year during October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month to tone-deaf stadium security rules that are punitive to women simply wanting to carry one of their normal household items: a purse.

Fallout from the Rice assault is likely already felt among these female fans. The NFL will need to work hard to regain their respect. They need to have good answers.

Read MoreNFL toughens penalties for domestic violence

Third on the Goodell Watch short list is the independent investigation the NFL has just opened on the matter. If the report is clear and convincing, then Commissioner Goodell has the chance to reinvigorate his legacy. If it is not, and there is doubt as to what he knew and when he knew it—then it's unfortunate that the villain in this issue shifts from Ray Rice, who unequivocally should be everybody's villain, to the NFL, and that's the way history will judge it.

— Commentary by Rick Horrow, CEO of Horrow Sports Ventures. Follow him on Twitter @RickHorrow.