ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY – As questions arose about how the NFL investigated domestic violence allegations against Ray Rice, commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday the league asked for, but was not given, video showing the ex-Ravens running back punching his then-fiancee in an elevator.
Goodell told CBS that “no one in the NFL, to my knowledge” had seen a new video of what happened in the elevator until it was posted online.
“We assumed that there was a video. We asked for video. But we were never granted that opportunity,” Goodell said.
Two videos, one released by TMZ Sports and another shown later to The Associated Press by a law enforcement official, show Rice punching Janay Palmer — who is now his wife — at an Atlantic City casino in February. They are graphic, and show more detail than an initial video released by TMZ in July that showed him dragging her from an elevator.
After the latest TMZ video made its way around the Internet, the Ravens cut Rice and the league barred him indefinitely. But the video renewed criticism about the NFL’s decision to initially suspend Rice for just two games, and raised questions about how strenuously the case was investigated.
Goodell has previously said he “didn’t get it right” with Rice and the league set up new penalties for domestic violence: a six-game suspension for a first offense, at least a year for a second.
“I would tell you that what we saw in the first videotape was troubling to us, in and of itself,” Goodell said. “But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear, is extremely graphic, and it was sickening. And that’s why we took the action we took yesterday.”
In the videos that surfaced Monday, Rice and Palmer are seen hitting each other before he knocks her off her feet and into a railing.
The higher-quality video shown to the AP shows Rice made no attempt to cover up what happened. After Palmer collapses, he drags her out of the elevator and is met by some hotel staff. Someone is heard saying, “She’s drunk, right?” And then, “No cops.” Rice didn’t respond.
The video was shown to the AP on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to release it.
Palmer defended her husband on her Instagram account Tuesday, saying that barring Rice from playing football is “horrific” and that making the couple “relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he met with owner Steve Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome after they saw the TMZ video, and they made the decision to let Rice go.
The action represented a complete reversal for the team, which had initially supported Rice. Rice had been charged with felony aggravated assault in the case, but in May he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program that allowed him to avoid jail time and could lead to the charge being purged from his record. A prominent New Jersey lawmaker called Tuesday for that decision to be reviewed.
In a letter to fans, Bisciotti said the team should have done more to get the video as the investigation continued, and it was a “mistake” not to. He said the team tried to get the video from both the casino and law enforcement, but the casino wouldn’t share it and that authorities refused. It is common for law enforcement to decline to release evidence when an investigation is ongoing.
“We should have seen it earlier. We should have pursued our own investigation more vigorously,” the letter said. “We didn’t and we were wrong.”
Rice, 27, has not spoken publicly since the team cut him, and his lawyer, Michael Diamondstein, declined to comment when contacted by the AP.