Ray Rice, meet the Bonfire of the Vanities.

Challenged by public outrage and “new” video footage, NFL leadership reversed an earlier decision for a 2-game suspension, and instead they just knocked his ass to the elevator floor.

TMZ, easily the king of American paparazzi got possession of said “new” video footage and let the world see exactly what it looks like when a professional athlete cold-cocks a female. In this case, the female was Rice’s fiancee, now wife, Janay. In a twisted sense of irony, Janay now stands as the sole supporter for Rice, while the sheep with the purse strings all head for the hills.

The league suspended him “indefinitely.” The Baltimore Ravens released him. Nike cut him. Refunds are being offered to fans wanting to return his jersey. Even Madden NFL 15 will remove him from the uber-popular video game.

Smells like a chicken coop, if you get my drift.

If you think the NFL didn’t know about the details of this incident prior to TMZ’s viral release, you haven’t been paying attention. This is a league that fines and suspends players for wearing the wrong socks; they fine players for celebrating; they fine them/eject them for “violent” hits on unsuspecting receivers (think about the irony of that for a minute.) It’s all about protecting the NFL Brand, and as long as no “proof” was available to the public, the league was not going to over-react to the incident by losing a valuable piece of the product (that’s you Ray, you’re cattle to them). As far as we knew, Mrs. Rice had a fainting spell and the easiest way to remedy her was to drag her by the arm half-way out of an elevator.

But that’s not the point – Rice is being rightfully vilified for his actions, but the league was willing to turn a blind eye as long as the truth didn’t surface.

I’ve been in HR for 20+ years and I’ve seen similar circumstances play out. It’s called a cover-up, meant to protect a valuable asset (again, like cattle.) To then throw Rice to the dogs as a sacrificial lamb is meant to do only one thing – make sure the focus stays far, far away from those who screwed the pooch.

Is it working?