On Tuesday, the CBS Evening News played a portion of Norah O’Donnell’s interview with Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding the Ray Rice situation. On Wednesday, the entire interview aired on CBS This Morning.
After explaining at length the efforts to get the video of the punch that knocked out Janay Rice, Goodell said that the league didn’t have a clear picture of what happened before the video surfaced.
“[W]hen we met with Ray Rice and his representatives, it was ambiguous about what actually happened,” Goodell said.
“But what was ambiguous about her laying unconscious on the floor being dragged out by her feet?” O’Donnell asked.
“There was nothing ambiguous about that,” Goodell said. “That was the result that we saw. We did not know what led up to that. We did not know the details of that. We asked for that on several occasions. It was unacceptable in and of itself what we saw on the first tape. And that’s why we took action, albeit insufficient action. And we acknowledge that, we took responsibility for that — I did personally — and I take responsibility for that now. But what we saw [Monday] was extremely clear and graphic and was absolutely necessary for us to take the action we did.”
It remains unclear how any ambiguity existed, given the plain language of the criminal complaint, which alleges that Rice committed assault “by striking [Janay] with his hand, rendering her unconscious.” And that’s really the question that needs to be answered. How was anything ambiguous? And if it was ambiguous to the point that it conflicted with the plain terms of the criminal complaint, why wasn’t every effort made to resolve the ambiguity with indisputable visual evidence?
Rice’s lawyer had the tape. The NFL, as best anyone can tell, inexplicably didn’t ask Rice or his lawyer for the tape.
At one point in the interview, Goodell cited an “ongoing criminal investigation” as one of the reasons for law enforcement to not produce the tape. But Rice was accepted into a diversionary program in the middle of May. At that point, the “ongoing criminal investigation” had ended. His suspension wasn’t imposed until late July.
If the circumstances were ambiguous without the tape because Rice, his wife, or his representatives lied to the team or the league, the NFL needs to say that, quickly. For now, it appears that the league knew or had reason to know that Ray Rice threw a punch, that it hit Janay in the head, and that it knocked Janay out before Monday. Apparently, the second suspension happened only because everyone can now see with their eyes what the NFL should have been able to reconstruct based on the facts that were available to it.