In his Wednesday memo to all 32 teams, Commissioner Roger Goodell continued the league’s laundry list of excuses for its failure to see the notorious Ray Rice elevator video.
“We did not ask the Atlantic City casino directly for the video,” Goodell wrote. “Again, our understanding of New Jersey law is that the casino is prohibited from turning over material to a third party during a law enforcement proceeding, and that doing so would have subjected individuals to prosecution for interference with a criminal investigation.”
At the request of ESPN’s Keith Olbermann, ESPN’s John Barr spoke to Paul Loriquet, director of communications for the Attorney General of New Jersey. Loriquet disputed Goodell’s claim.
“Our interpretation of the law is that it would not have been illegal,” Loriquet told Barr. Loriquet told TMZ the same thing.
This donut hole in the league’s bunker-mentality logic overlooks the fact that the NFL didn’t ask Rice to secure the video from his lawyer, who had it as part of the discovery process in the criminal prosecution. Neither Goodell nor the league have addressed on the record the question of whether the NFL asked Rice to get the video from his lawyer.
It should be the first topic that the not-so-independent investigator addresses.
The New Jersey legal glitch also overlooks the fact that the NFL didn’t need to see the video to know what was on the video. ESPN, echoing the on-the-record statements from Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome, reports based on four off-the-record sources that Ray Rice admitted to Goodell that he struck Janay Palmer. (The lack of a transcript from the meeting will nevertheless allow the league to continue to hide behind words like “ambiguous” and “inconsistent.”)
It brings me back to the one single point that bothers me the most about this entire situation. The NFL didn’t need to see the video to know its contents, which I believe explains the NFL failure to try even a little harder to get the video. Equipped with the knowledge of the video’s contents, however, the NFL failed to display the sensitivity necessary to understand what domestic violence actually looks like.
Once the NFL saw the video, the NFL concluded that domestic violence is “extremely clear, extremely graphic, and . . . sickening.” Without the tape, the league office able to understand that the process of a female getting knocked out by a professional athlete isn’t vague or sanitary or pleasant.
That’s why they didn’t get the tape. They didn’t get the tape because they didn’t bother to consider the possibility that the visual images of a man knocking out a woman possibly could be “extremely clear, extremely graphic, and . . . sickening.”
Which means that, if the NFL truly wants to change its culture on domestic violence and if the group of middle-aged men who run the sport lack the basic human empathy to realize precisely what Janay Palmer Rice and all other victims of domestic violence committed by the league’s players endure, the league needs one or more senior executives who are female.
Maybe, in the end, the NFL needs a Commissioner who is female.