Ever since video was released on Monday showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice leveling his then-fiancee, Janay, in an Atlantic City casino elevator, the NFL has maintained that it never saw the video until TMZ released it. But that explanation looks a lot less believable in light of a law enforcement official’s claim that he sent the now-infamous video to an NFL executive–in April.
The anonymous cop told The Associated Press that on April 9, someone from NFL headquarters in New York City called him to confirm that a DVD containing the video had arrived. He then played a 12-second voicemail in which a female voice said, “You’re right. It’s terrible.” That implied someone had seen Rice hit Janay with a violent roundhouse left–a punch that was so hard that I believe Janay may have already been unconscious by the time she hit the floor. When asked about this video, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said that the league was looking into it.
The prospect that the NFL had the video in April appears very likely in light of statements from at least two ESPN reporters that their sources in the league saw the video as early as May, according to Deadspin’s Barry Petchetsky. For instance, in May Chris Mortensen said that some of his sources said they’d seen the video, and it showed Rice hitting Janay twice before Janay’s head hit the handrail. In July, Mortensen repeated that his sources had told him they’d seen the tape, “and it wasn’t pretty.” On Monday’s edition of “Outside the Lines,” Mortensen said without any hesitation that his sources “had knowledge of the videotape, and in one case had seen the videotape.” Jane McManus said on Tuesday’s edition of “Outside the Lines” that her sources told her essentially the same thing as Mortensen. She went further in a column for espnW just hours after Rice had his previous two-game suspension extended indefinitely, saying that “two league sources” had told her in July–when the original suspension was announced–that the NFL had the same information that prosecutors had.
Late Wednesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell asked former FBI director Robert Mueller to investigate how the league handled the Rice affair. However, it doesn’t take someone with Mueller’s training to know two questions that should be asked right away. Why wasn’t the tape passed up the line to Goodell? And if Goodell didn’t know about this tape, why didn’t he make it his business to know? Given that the worst-case scenario was that evidence would surface that Rice’s claim of self-defense was bogus, you would think that Goodell would have put out the word that if anyone managed to get such evidence, he wanted to know about it ASAP. That’s Crisis Management 101–or at least, that’s what I thought. And now that worst-case scenario has indeed come to fruition.
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King writes that if someone in the league had that tape and Goodell never saw it, at the very least it would carry the appearance of “a stunning lack of institutional control.” Let’s not sugarcoat it–given the stakes, it would reveal that Goodell was disengaged in a way that a leader of any major enterprise cannot be. And if that turns out to be the case, Goodell will have to go.
Darrell Lucus, also known as Christian Dem in NC at Daily Kos, is a radical-lefty Jesus-lover who has been blogging for change for a decade. Follow him on Twitter @DarrellLucus or connect with him on Facebook.