ESPN obtained the entire 631-page transcript of the two-day hearing and published excerpts from the document on Wednesday. At the end of the hearing, former federal judge Barbara Jones overturned the former Ravens running back's suspension.
ESPN's report quotes a portion of Roger Goodell's testimony during which, in ESPN's interpretation, the union lawyer questioning Goodell quotes an email from NFL investigator Jim Buckley saying Buckley told league security chief Jeffrey B. Miller, "I never spoke to anyone from the casino or police department" about a tape from inside a casino elevator in which Rice was alleged to have assaulted his then-fiancee (now wife) Janay.
"That is a quote not from an email, but from an argument by Rice's own attorney mischaracterizing the evidence," the NFL said in its statement. "The email in fact explains that, despite his multiple efforts to do so, the investigator was unable to speak with anyone from law enforcement about the tape."
Goodell has said that the first time he saw video showing Rice striking his wife was when it was published by TMZ on Sept. 8. He also said the NFL was "never granted the opportunity" to see it prior to that. The Associated Press later reported that a law enforcement official said he sent a copy of the video to an NFL executive in April. The AP said it listened to a voicemail from an NFL employee confirming the office received it.
Rice testified during the appeal hearing that he would have allowed his lawyer to give a copy of the video to NFL officials.
The NFL's statement does not address any other portion of the report, including Rice's testimony that he told Goodell during their June meeting that he hit Janay. Goodell had said publicly that Rice's account of the incident was ambiguous.
In her decision reinstating Rice, Jones wrote that she believed he did not lie to the NFL during the meeting with Goodell, making his indefinite suspension "arbitrary."
Goodell has come under intense scrutiny for his handling of the Rice case. Multiple reports have questioned his transparency throughout the process. NFL Players Association president Eric Winston said last month that he thinks Goodell’s credibility is “definitely lacking” among current players.
Goodell ordered ex-FBI director Robert Mueller III to lead an independent investigation into the Rice case and how the NFL handled it.