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Mueller Report underscores Roger Goodell's deceit in Ray Rice case

The NFL-commissioned Robert Mueller Report is 96 pages long, and let’s face it: Most of you won’t read it. You don’t have the time or necessary caffeine. You will just see the headlines that there is 'NO EVIDENCE NFL SAW RICE VIDEO' and hear NFL commissioner Roger Goodell declare victory.

But don’t be fooled, Goodell and the NFL lied to you. It says so right there in the report.

On Sept. 8, the league released a statement saying it had not seen the video of Ray Rice knocking out his fiancée, and insisted, "We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator."

Mueller Report: NFL didn't see Rice video before public

Yet Mueller writes, "League investigators did not contact any of the police officers who investigated the incident, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, or the Revel [casino] to attempt to obtain or view the in-elevator video or to obtain other information. No one from the League asked Rice or his lawyer whether they would make available for viewing the in-elevator video they received as part of criminal discovery in early April. And, after the initial contacts with the Ravens in the immediate aftermath of the incident, League investigators did not follow up with the Ravens to determine whether the team had additional information."

That’s one big heavyweight champion of a lie. In fact, this whole report is supposed to be part of the lie, which is ongoing and will probably not end until you forget this incident, or simply get tired of it.

I don’t think Mueller is lying, and I don’t think Goodell asked him to lie. The commissioner and his advisors are too clever for that. They just asked Mueller to find a different truth. It’s like Goodell got caught with his hand in a cookie jar, and he hired an independent investigator to determine whether cookies are healthy. Now he wants to be a pioneer in the movement for healthier cookies, and you think, "Wait, what just happened here?"

Follow along: Goodell suspended Ray Rice for two games. There was some outrage about it, and so he apologized for being too light on Rice. Then TMZ released video of Rice knocking out his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City casino elevator, and the outrage increased 100-fold.

So now Goodell was stuck. He had to punish Rice further, to placate his customers, but he couldn’t just say, "Gosh, you folks are angry, so I’m going to placate you."

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There is no Placating Provision in the collective bargaining agreement. So Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely, and this is where the lying began. Goodell said he initially suspended Rice for two games because he didn’t know exactly what happened in that elevator.

As Goodell told CBS in his spin tour, "When we met with Ray Rice and his representatives, it was ambiguous about what actually happened."

CBS’s Norah O’Donnell asked what was ambiguous about Janay Rice being dragged out of an elevator. After all, that video had been public for months.

Goodell replied, "We did not know what led up to that."

Goodell also told Rice that the video represented "a starkly different sequence of events" from what Rice had described when they met. But this is not true. When Rice appealed his suspension, Judge Barbara S. Jones ruled in his favor in November, stating clearly, "Rice did not lie or mislead the NFL at the June 16 meeting."

Goodell knew what happened, and he wasn’t alone. In July, before Goodell suspended Rice for two games, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported, "I'm told, from those who’ve seen the video, it wasn’t pretty. She attacks him -- we don’t know the reason why -- and he strikes her hard, and her head, according to sources I’ve spoken with, struck the rail inside the elevator and she was unconscious."

This, of course, is exactly what happened. It is simply impossible to believe that Mortensen knew it, and said it publicly, and Goodell did not.

But from the moment this scandal blew up on him, Goodell has tried to shift the conversation away from his own failure. He wants it to be about the NFL’s domestic-violence policy, because that can be fixed. He wants to present himself as the solution to the problem without fully acknowledging he was the problem.

This is why Goodell brazenly insisted nobody in league offices had seen the punch video, when he had barely even looked into the possibility. Then, when the Associated Press reported days later that a law-enforcement source had sent the video to the league and received a voicemail confirming its arrival, Goodell finally hired Mueller.

Of course, he didn’t hire Mueller to find the whole truth. You don’t have to read all 96 pages to understand this. Go to Page 2 of the executive summary. That is where Mueller says he was asked to "conduct an independent inquiry into two questions" about Goodell’s handling of Ravens running back Ray Rice, who slugged his fiancée in an Atlantic City casino last February.

The questions:

1. Did anyone in the league receive or see the in-elevator video prior to its public release (by TMZ) on September 8?

2. What other evidence was obtained by, provided to, or available to the League in the course of its investigation?

That was it. This was all about material evidence. Mueller made no attempt to find out if Goodell lied to the public about what Rice told him, because that was not part of his mission.

If Rice had not appealed his suspension, nobody would have investigated whether Goodell lied. And Mueller only briefly addresses Jones’s conclusion that Rice was honest, writing, "It is not necessary for us to address those findings or the evidence supporting them because our investigation was not directed to the appropriateness of the discipline imposed in either July or September."

Mueller’s investigation was all about the video. Mueller did an exhaustive check of phone logs and talked to everybody he could find in NFL offices about whether they saw the video. This allows the NFL and media outlets to declare 'NOBODY IN THE NFL SAW THE VIDEO' and declare victory.

The truth is, we still don’t know if anybody in the NFL saw the tape. But we know enough to know that Goodell lied.