WASHINGTON, DC—With longtime NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue recently announcing that he will retire in July, political leaders across the globe have taken an uncharacteristic interest in the sport of football, urging one potential candidate—U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice—to accept the high-profile position.
"I have had the singular experience of working with Ms. Rice on more than one occasion, and believe she is perfectly suited for this position," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair, one of many prominent political figures who held an impromptu press conference upon hearing that Rice, a longtime football fan, had expressed interest in eventually becoming commissioner. "Although I am in fact ignorant of the particulars of American-style football, I am sure its sporting league is one that Condoleezza is perfectly capable of managing."
Rice had publicly commented several times on her ambition to become commissioner, most notably in a televised interview during the Super Bowl XL pregame show. However, international interest in installing Rice in the position, while always high, peaked last week with the news of Tagliabue's impending retirement.
"We live in uncertain and chaotic times, and America never needed Condoleezza Rice more," Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said in an international radio address Tuesday. "With radicals in the NFL Player's Association demanding a new collective-bargaining agreement, and instability threatening the very revenue-sharing structure that professional football was built upon, she is clearly a stabilizing figure who must help unify this sport."
Aziz was then called away to deal with escalating nuclear proliferation in the Kashmir region, during which he repeated through his aides that Rice's leadership and diplomacy was desperately needed in professional football.
"Secretary of State Rice owes it to the world to take this bold step forward in her career," said Sonia Gandhi, the president of India's National Congress Party and the widow of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. "If she was named commissioner of what I understand is America's favorite sport, it would not just be a great moment for America, but a great moment for women in politics worldwide."
"Ms. Rice would finally be in a position where she could positively impact the lives of millions of Americans," Gandhi added.
Support for Rice's appointment to the NFL commissioner post has poured in to the State Department from prominent statesmen worldwide, including several letters of recommendation from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has worked closely with Rice since she took over the State Department from Colin Powell; a televised message from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has dealt with the U.S. primarily through Rice since his election; affirmations from almost every diplomat Rice met during her recent 10-day trip through Chile, Australia, Samoa, and Indonesia; and a letter co-written and signed by both acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, prime minister-designate of Palestine.
Although the State Department has not yet officially responded to the overwhelming outpouring of support for Secretary Rice's career change, Rice issued a short, tersely worded statement formally thanking the over 85 diplomats, heads of state, and religious leaders who spoke in her favor on the issue.
In a press conference late Tuesday, however, President Bush announced that he is strongly against Rice leaving her current post, saying that she is a valued Cabinet member who excels at her position, and that "if anyone from this administration should get that job, it should be me."