When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met with former Ravens running back Ray Rice before initially suspending him for two games, Rice’s wife Janay was also in attendance.
During that meeting, she told Goodell that she believed she was partially to blame for being punched in the face and knocked unconscious inside an elevator at the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. According to a report from Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal, Goodell then went on to give Rice the nearly universally reviled penalty out of respect for his wife.
Clark reports that an NFL owner said that Goodell told him and other owners that he felt a harsher penalty would have been “insensitive” to Mrs. Rice “because it would have come across as an indictment of her character.” That owner and another source told Clark that they believed the lack of thoroughness “reflected Goodell’s discomfort” with making a decision that didn’t fit with her description of the events. The NFL and the Rices declined opportunity to comment.
According to the owner, Goodell also told him that he believed Mrs. Rice fell during a scuffle between the couple and became unconscious as a result. That’s in direct opposition to the police report from the incident, which is very different than Goodell’s statements that the work of law enforcement was the league’s guide in how to approach the issue.
It’s unknown if the unnamed owner’s goal was to make Goodell seem more sympathetic, but the report, if true, doesn’t do that. It serves to blame the victim not only for being abused, but for the league’s failure to do a complete investigation of what happened that night. And it provides further evidence that the league erred in a major way by interviewing the alleged victim of abuse next to her alleged abuser and his employers in the first place.