Initially, the NFL had nothing to say about ESPN’s article based on the transcript of the Ray Rice appeal. Now, the NFL is saying plenty.
“The ESPN article written by Don Van Natta distorts the testimony and evidence in the Rice matter,” the league said in a statement. “Among the numerous inaccuracies in the story, there are no emails or any other evidence from an NFL investigator stating ‘I never contacted anyone about the tape.’ That is a quote not from an email, but from an argument by Rice’s own attorney mischaracterizing the evidence. The email in fact explains that, despite his multiple efforts to do so, the investigator was unable to speak with anyone from law enforcement about the tape. The email details the efforts the investigator took in an effort to obtain any and all evidence in the Rice matter. Those steps included contacting and seeking information from the Atlantic City Police Department, the New Jersey State Police, the Atlantic City Solicitor’s Office and the Atlantic County Superior Court.
“As the email explains and as NFL Security Chief Jeff Miller’s testimony made clear, none of those agencies was willing to provide the League with any information or evidence beyond copies of Rice’s indictment and pretrial intervention records. The suggestion that the league never attempted to contact anyone about the tape or that the Commissioner’s September 10 memo to the owners was inaccurate is simply incorrect. In fact, the Commissioner’s memorandum fully and accurately described the league’s investigation, and Judge Jones did not find otherwise.”
That’s a far cry from the league’s prior deference to the confidentiality order issued by Judge Barbara S. Jones.
“The transcript and entire proceeding, other than her final decision, were subject to a confidentiality order signed by Judge Jones,” the league previously said. “We will continue to respect the process.”
The change of heart likely comes from the allegation in ESPN’s article that Commissioner Roger Goodell told owners in an email that the video had been requested from the Atlantic City Police Department one day before the league’s lead investigator told NFL Security Chief Jeff Miller that a request had not been made to the Atlantic City Police Department.
It’s a bad look for whoever is wrong. And there’s one way to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong — the entire transcript plus all emails and exhibits should be released publicly. If the NFL or the NFLPA are interested in the truth getting out, one or both should ask Judge Jones to lift the confidentiality order. Or they should simply disregard it. The case is over, and she has no lingering jurisdiction over the parties or the controversy.
Of course, this entire dispute overlooks the fact that Rice had the video and the NFL failed to ask him for it. Along with the fact that the NFL probably didn’t need to see the video to know what it showed. But if ESPN has swung and missed on such a key allegation, next year’s Monday Night Football schedule could look a lot like next week’s Thursday Night Football finale.
UPDATE 3:17 p.m. ET: “We stand by our reporting,” ESPN told PFT via email.