Documents show ESPN mischaracterized evidence from Rice appeal

Last week, a kerfuffle erupted between the NFL and ESPN regarding an ESPN report that focused on one key portion of the Ray Rice appeal process.  Specifically, the league accused ESPN of distorting the testimony and the evidence.

The fight centered on the impression created by Don Van Natta, Jr. that, only one day before Commissioner Roger Goodell told the owners via memo that the league tried on multiple occasions to obtain the notorious Ray Rice elevator video from law enforcement agencies, the league’s lead investigator, Jim Buckley, wrote in an email to NFL security chief Jeff Miller,  “I never contacted anyone about the tape.”  Last Friday, the NFL said in a statement, “That is a quote not from an email, but from an argument by Rice’s own attorney mischaracterizing the evidence.”

It may look like a Ralph Macchio I shot the clerk?-style misunderstanding, but it’s not.  PFT has obtained a copy of the email in question, along with a copy of the key page from the transcript of the Rice appeal hearing.  On this point, the NFL is right.

In the email in question, the NFL’s lead investigator does not say “I never contacted anyone about the tape.”  That quote comes from a question posed to NFL V.P. of security Jeff Miller at the Rice appeal hearing.  The NFL’s lawyer objected to the characterization of the e-mail, and hearing officer Barbara S. Jones said, “I can read them.”

Apparently, no one from ESPN read them.  Again, the email from the NFL’s lead investigator does not say, “I never contacted anyone about the tape.”  Nevertheless, the ESPN article as published (and as still existing on declares, “The last e-mail on the chain from Buckley says: ‘I never contacted anyone about the tape.’

It’s clear that Van Natta based his assertion not on the email but on lawyer Jeffrey Kessler’s inaccurate paraphrase of it.  Indeed, Van Natta tracks verbatim the question posed by Kessler to Miller:  “The last e-mail on the chain says, ‘I never contacted anyone about the tape.'”

ESPN has said on multiple occasions regarding this issue, “We stand by our reporting.”  PFT asked ESPN to release the entire transcript, but ESPN declined to do so.  (PFT also contacted the hearing officer last Friday with a request that the entire transcript plus exhibits be released publicly, but received no response.)

Frankly, ESPN shouldn’t stand by its reporting on this specific point.  Van Natta made a mistake.  ESPN should admit it and fix it.  Unless and until ESPN does, the NFL has good reason to be upset with the company that once pulled the plug on a popular fictional show about pro football at the behest of former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

In this specific case, the documents PFT has obtained show that the NFL is right, ESPN is wrong, and next year’s Monday Night Football schedule possibly will consist of Titans-Jaguars, multiple times over.

57 responses to “Documents show ESPN mischaracterized evidence from Rice appeal

  1. Why anyone would ever trust Jeffeey Kessler is beyond my comprehension…and all of the sports media is in full CYA mode since they didn’t put 1+1=2 together before the release of the video…did anyone need the video to know he punched out his wife? Cmon Man!!

  2. The only people worth a hoot at ESPN are Le Betard, Beadle, and Van Pelt.

    That “popular” show was awful along with every other attempt at TV series by ESPN.

  3. ESPN has no integrity. In their original OTL article about Rice, they claimed he was watching a game from home with his friend and former teammate AQ Shipley the day the video broke. Only problem? Shipley was on the field for the Colts that day. An easily demonstrated falsehood. What did they do? Issue a correction? Apologize?

    No. They edited the report to remove the obvious lie, and never made a single mention of the change. This wasn’t a typo or a simple mistake. It was a blatantly wrong statement of fact that, when discovered, they just tried to hush up. And it wasn’t the only lie in the article, as demonstrated later by the Ravens’ response with the full transcripts of the texts between Rice and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.

    Own up to your mistakes, ESPN. The internet is forever. You can’t just change your “facts” in your reports and expect no one to notice.

  4. Yep, blame the NFL and the Owners/Ravens. Everything that has happened is the NFL’s fault….
    How about placing the blame where it needs to be???
    Why not hammer the players union???
    I know why….because there is a white male that is over 30 who we can blame it on.
    Society needs to wake up….just because it was published on the internet does not make it true.
    ESPN and other media outlets only print what I would classify as gossip. No one is held accountable to the facts anymore.
    Sad….truly sad!

  5. What was the supposed lie again? Receiving or viewing the tape never has had any bearing on the issue. It’s all nanny nanny boo boo childish nonsense. The police report shows what happened. Rice minimized it a little via word choice but the NFL should have not been surprised based on the report and what everybody plainly saw from the first tape. The only thing that changed was the increase in public outrage. Goodell knee-jerked himself into a stiffer punishment and then tried to characterize Rice’s using of “struck” instead of “punch” as a justification. He knew it would get overturned but the public would be settled down.

  6. “next year’s Monday Night Football schedule possibly will consist of Titans-Jaguars, multiple times over.”

    I smell “London Monday Night Football” brewing.

  7. This video thing is crazy…there is no way that a police department would release a video involving domestic violence. Victim rights are kind of a big thing and there is no way an agency would cough up such a video. So…it makes sense that the NFL didn’t have it. They shouldn’t have!

  8. Just watch Fox Sports, or well maybe PFT, NFL Network is a bunch of loud mouths, ESPN is a bunch of story seekers, and Fox is,….. Well fun and entertaining, while PFT gives it a good shot to fit in the middle somewhere.

  9. I BLAME RAY RICE……..I don’t blame ESPN. I don’t blame Roger Goodell. I don’t blame the NFL. The only person reponsible for this whole thing is Ray Rice.

  10. Listen to what the prosecutor said…not enough evidence to convict for the most minor misdemeanor. The mistake Rice made was cutting a deal. In the state of Florida he could have pulled out a gun and shot her and he would not have committed a crime (see many of the stand your ground cases there).

    When someone is assaulting you, as his wife was doing in the elevator, you have the right to defend yourself. While I disagree with him giving her the left jab (as I don’t think she actually had the power to injure him), it was a very, very minor hit. Her head happened to hit the rail and knock her out.

    Technically he did not commit any crime, yet he is banned from the NFL.

  11. “Oh he committed a crime….just got away with it because his now wife didn’t want anything done. If she wanted him to go down, he would have.”


    Son you need to look at what the prosecuting attorney said relative to committing a crime! While I don’t believe he was justified or needed to hit her, technically self defense she was throwing a left hook and he got her with a left jab. Even if not the case, punishment would not have been jail and would be the very lowest level misdemeanor for which surveys show 85% of male Americans have committed a misdemeanor.

  12. The media lying, twisting the truth and spinning a story? No way!!!!!!.

    The media has been manipulating the viewer/reader for years. It is like some kind of experiment to see how many people can be brainwashed into taking what they see or hear in the media as the fact and truth.

    If it weren’t so dangerous to a free nation, it would be funny.

  13. if it favors anything on the east coast, and is a detriment to the west coast… know ESPN will be right there.

  14. It’s hard to blame any media outlet for sensationalizing any story since the public foams at the mouth for anything controversial to comment about. It’s like we’ve all turned into mini-Al Sharptons.

  15. Whether you like Roger G. or not, you have to admit that he has botched this whole thing.

    You didn’t need a tape to show you what happened! She gets in the elevator and then was dragged out. Did you think it was pretty? What did you think happened?

    Here is what should have happened…he should have stayed with the two games and admitted his screwed the whole thing up. Apologize. Tell everyone that there would be changes. Just own the mistake.

    I don’t care what ESPN did or didn’t do. Ray shouldn’t have hit her and Roger shouldn’t have backtracked on the punishment. Those two are the ones who screwed up.

  16. @drswaggletooth:
    85%? What surveys? Cite your source, because I call bullspit on that. Unless you are counting speeding tickets or parking violations as misdemeanors….and if you are, then your “survey” is pointless crap, as punching a woman cannot be compared to 53 in a 40. And if you are using “committed” versus “convicted of”, then how the heck do you verify any of that?

  17. purplereign52 says:

    Dec 19, 2014 5:35 PM

    Liberals and espn go hand in hand…..not surprising


    Thanks, Mr. Hannity. Your comments added real value to the dialogue. And I say this as a conservative. Stupid comments like this are embarrassing.

  18. Son you need to look at what the prosecuting attorney said relative to committing a crime! While I don’t believe he was justified or needed to hit her, technically self defense she was throwing a left hook and he got her with a left jab. Even if not the case, punishment would not have been jail and would be the very lowest level misdemeanor for which surveys show 85% of male Americans have committed a misdemeanor.


    Dad….last I checked knocking someone out is a felony. Are you “technically” saying she had it coming?

  19. there are intelligent liberals just like intelligent conservatives, unfortunately, more idiots than not…

    purple reign= idiot, and if that is a play on words (which i doubt you’re smart enough but JIC, Prince sucks)

    pftfanatic= intelligent, someones political views don’t define them ESPECIALLY in a sports realm, it’s realistic commentary from people like you that cause independents like myself (altho admittedly mostly liberal) consider the other side of the coin before making a decision, it’s nice knowing there are people like you out there. I wish we could go back to americans instead of liberals/conservatives and i blame both sides equally……….

    but what i really came on here to say is, did someone actually say they like le beretard? wow, must be a conservative, jk! 🙂

  20. Here is the thing, all this is a smoke screen to not blame the only person responsible, Ray Rice. He hit her like Roy Jone would hit another boxer. But let’s create a scenario of who saw what tape when, and create a false situation where the players rights were violated so he can get back on the field and play. The Union couldn’t care less about Rice, they only care about his money, so of course they will cry foul. But let’s look at this like real people. A man punched a woman in the face, she went limp and was knocked out, and then dragged out of an elevator. Those are facts, and he should be in jail. If you don’t think so, go try it yourself and get caught, you’ll be in a cell in no time.

  21. Look at it this way, if you are choosing to believe what ESPN says OR what the NFL says, chances are you are choosing between a liar and a cheat. Both have a vested interest in distortion. ESPN wants to distort facts because that makes for a better story. The NFL wants to distort facts because they want to protect their “shield” which is really a paper bag full of puppy doo doo.

  22. For everyone saying he should be in jail…..there was a court case & they offered a diversionary program, not jail time & they had the whole tape. The court system already had their crack at him.

    Was he wrong? Hell yeah. Should he be banned for life? Nope. The 2 game suspension was exactly what prior domestic abuse cases got. There just wasn’t video evidence of the other guys. He essentially beating his wife on camera rather than in the privacy of their home.

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