More questions than answers as report suggests NFL had Rice tape
Someone -- maybe everyone -- is lying to us.
What other conclusion can be drawn in regard to the ever-developing Ray Rice saga as it pertains to the NFL? The latest revelation came from an Associated Press report Wednesday, in which a law enforcement official claimed he sent a copy of a video showing Rice punching his then-fianceé, now wife, to the NFL in April, five months before it was made public this week. That same official also played for the AP "a voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: 'You're right. It's terrible.'"
This less than 24 hours after an interview of Goodell by CBS News aired, with the NFL commissioner again stating that the league was never made privy to the video graphically showing Rice punching Janay Palmer twice.
"No one in the NFL, to my knowledge, and I had been asked that same question and the answer to that is no," Goodell said. "We were not granted that. We were told that was not something we would have access to. On multiple occasions, we asked for it. And on multiple occasions we were told no. I understand that there may be legal restrictions on them sharing that with us. And we've heard that from attorneys general and former attorneys general."
The Ravens cut Rice and the NFL followed by suspending the running back indefinitely after TMZ released the video to the public. Previously, the only video from the incident showed Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer from an Atlantic City casino elevator, with nothing but Rice and Palmer's words on how she had wound up that way.
All of the developments lead to two questions: Is the NFL truly this disorganized at its highest levels? And were those involved, from Goodell to the Ravens, naive enough to believe that everything would blow over entirely after Rice was given his two-game suspension?
It is not the 1960s anymore, even though the NFL has approached this all as if the initial security cam footage was this case's Zapruder film. Even if the league legitimately was blocked on all attempts to secure video from inside the elevator, it was aware that the tape existed. So too, apparently, did this voicemail from a member of the NFL offices to a law enforcement executive. No one will be surprised if similar evidence, be it emails, other phone calls or recorded conversations, comes to light in the near future.
"We have no knowledge of this," the NFL said in a statement responding to the allegation that the video was delivered to the league office. "We are not aware of anyone who possessed or saw the video before it was made public Monday. We will look into it."
A plethora of questions remain unanswered in this increasingly controversial story, including for starters:
• Who really saw the tape?: The most obvious, and perhaps most important, question remains. Both the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens organization has dug in on claims that they did not view the video from inside the elevator until Monday. This latest AP report contradicts those statements.
• Who is the "female voice" on the law enforcement official's voicemail?: Goodell's plausible deniability argument may not be unhinged by the Associated Press report. Though the voicemail certainly seems to indicate that at least one person in the NFL offices received and subsequently watched the video of Rice punching Palmer, even the law enforcement official submits that he cannot confirm that anyone working for the NFL actually viewed said video.
As SI legal analyst Michael McCann wondered on Twitter, was there any sort of tracking done on the video's delivery? If so, there ought to be proof of the NFL office receiving the delivery, as well as the name of the person who accepted it.
• What other legal elements are in play here?: Rice accepted a pre-trial intervention plea. If he completes that program, it would prevent any charges from being pressed against him in this case. But that outcome was decided in May. Which leads to another question posed by McCann: Why would a law enforcement official send a piece of evidence in a potential impending criminal trial to the NFL?
Rice also may have grounds to sue the NFL, depending on when the league became aware of and/or saw the second video. More on that issue here.
• Is Goodell's job in jeopardy?: Short answer, yes. As several others have commented, this has become the commissioner's Watergate. What did he know? When did he know it? Is there actually a cover-up being attempted here?
Even as more and more unseemly variables came into play on this case earlier in the week, Goodell's position seemed to be secure -- after all, he has led the league into unprecedented financial growth, as evidenced by the Bills' pending sale for more than $1 billion. However, NFL owners do have the authority to pursue an investigation into Goodell's actions in this case. That possibility may be the tip of the iceberg on what lies ahead.
Calls for Goodell's firing or resignation will increase following the AP's latest report.
• What's next?: With this story unfolding at a rapid pace, the direction of it shifting on a daily basis, the answer to this question is anyone's guess. At the absolute bare minimum, the NFL should conduct an internal investigation into the law enforcement officer's claim. If the league did indeed have a copy of the video back in April, Goodell will be forced to provide ample cause why the video never made its way to the top of the league's organizational chain.
The anonymous female NFL executive in question could be fired if the NFL finds (or simply declares) the law enforcement officer's statements to be factual. Assuming the elevator video did make its way to the league office, we need to know why the employee who received it did not escalate it to the higher-ups ... or why those higher-ups denied having it.
Let's not forget the message Roger Goodell delivered to the Saints as he punished them for the "Bountygate" scandal: "Ignorance is no excuse."
One way or another, the other shoe may be about to drop for the NFL.
"Do you feel like your job is on the line?" Norah O'Donnell asked Goodell during the aforementioned CBS interview.
"No, I'm used to criticism," Goodell responded. "Every day, I have to earn my stripes. Every day, I have to, to do a better job. And that's my responsibility to the game, to the NFL, and to what I see as society. People expect a lot from the NFL. We accept that. We embrace that. That's our opportunity to make a difference not just in the NFL, but in society in general. We have that ability. We have that influence. And we have to do that. And every day, that's what we're going to strive to do."