It’s taken nearly three months, but finally a conclusive answer has been provided to one of the most basic questions in the Ray Rice case: Could the NFL have gotten the elevator video from Rice himself?
In her 17-page ruling announcing the reversal of Rice’s indefinite suspension, former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones concludes that Rice had obtained the video from the prosecution as part of the discovery process in his criminal case, and that the NFL (which supposedly was doing everything in its power to get the video) didn’t ask Rice for a copy of the video.
From page four of the written decision, “Rice had received this video in discovery during his criminal case, but the NFL never asked Rice for the second video.”
That’s a point that was first raised in this space on August 4, more than a month before the second video was released. At a time when everyone assumed that the NFL had seen the video of the strike that knocked Janay Palmer Rice out, Jay Glazer of FOX said on The Dan Patrick Show that the NFL hadn’t seen the video. Alarmed by that disclosure, I determined the NFL hadn’t seen the video, but that it could have gotten the video easily.
The topic was revisited on September 8, after the video emerged, the Ravens cut Rice, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. But the league had never publicly addressed whether it asked Rice for the video.
Privately, some have pointed to a strong likelihood that Rice’s lawyer wouldn’t have allowed him to produce the tape. Those concerns appear nowhere within Judge Jones’ ruling, and for good reason. Rice, as the client, owns the contents of the lawyer’s file. Rice, as the client, has the power to tell the lawyer what will and won’t be shared with, for example, Rice’s employer.
Regardless of why the NFL didn’t ask for the video, the truth is that: (1) Rice had it; and (2) the NFL never said the magic words.
That simple failure by the NFL makes everything else regarding the case irrelevant. Either the league office didn’t want to see the video or it failed to exercise any degree of reasonable diligence in attempting to get it. Regardless of the explanation, it’s not the kind of outcome that the stakeholders in professional football should expect, or tolerate.