Football

NFL’s response to Ray Rice under scrutiny; he and wife speak out

In this May 1, 2014, file photo, Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Rice held hands with his wife, Janay Palmer, as they arrived at Atlantic County Criminal Courthouse in Mays Landing, N.J.
In this May 1, 2014, file photo, Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Rice held hands with his wife, Janay Palmer, as they arrived at Atlantic County Criminal Courthouse in Mays Landing, N.J. The Associated Press

The NFL remained on the defensive Tuesday as questions mounted over its handling of the domestic abuse case involving one of its star running backs, Ray Rice.

The league said Tuesday in a statement that it had asked for “any and all information about the incident, including any video that may exist” from law enforcement officials and “that video was not made available to us and no one in our office saw it until yesterday.” But it still declined to say whether any of its investigators had seen the video, and why it had not requested the video from the hotel.

A day earlier, the Baltimore Ravens terminated Rice’s contract and the NFL indefinitely suspended him after explicit video of Rice punching and knocking out his then-fiancée in an elevator in February was released by TMZ, the celebrity gossip website.

In an interview with CBS on Tuesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league assumed that there was a video from inside the elevator but were never granted an opportunity to view it.

Goodell told USA Today it was “sickening” to view the new video.

“We asked law enforcement and they were not willing to provide (the video),” he said. “I think they were under some legal requirements not to provide it, as I understand it.”

Rice was in the midst of serving a two-game suspension that he received in July. The NFL said that during its investigation into the case, it had not seen the more graphic video. Months ago, a TMZ video showed Rice dragging Janay Palmer, now his wife, from the elevator at the Revel casino, which closed on Sept. 2.

“You see the first video, the February video, and that’s difficult, you can see that something has gone very wrong …” Goodell told USA Today, adding that his February interview with Rice and his representatives provided “an ambiguous description” of what took place in the elevator.

“There was no ambiguity when you saw that tape (Monday)…” Goodell continued. “It was clear what we were hearing was not consistent.”

A second view from inside the elevator emerged Monday night when The Associated Press was shown a video by a law enforcement official that includes audio and is longer than the grainy TMZ video. In it, Ray Rice and Janay Palmer can be heard shouting obscenities at each other, and she appears to spit in the face of the three-time Pro Bowl running back right before he throws a brutal punch that knocks Palmer off her feet and into a railing.

The higher-quality video shown to the AP shows Rice made no attempt to cover up the incident. After Palmer collapses, he drags her out of the elevator and is met by some hotel staff. One of them can be heard saying, “She’s drunk, right?” And then, “No cops.” But Rice didn’t respond.

Rice on Tuesday made his first comments since the new videos emerged.

“I have to be strong for my wife. She is so strong. We are in good spirits,” Rice told ESPN. “We have a lot of people praying for us and we’ll continue to support each other. I have to be there for (Janay) and my family right now and work through this.”

Janay Rice told ESPN that “I love my husband. I support him. I want people to respect our privacy in this family matter.”

Janay Rice also came to her husband’s defense on Tuesday in a statement on her Instagram account, which has since been changed to private. The Baltimore Sun said it had verified that the statement was meant to be public.

“I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend,” Janay Rice wrote. “But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that (the) media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his (behind) [off] for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific.

“THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is! Ravensnation we love you!”

The league had said it initially suspended Rice for two games in part because prosecutors had dropped the felony assault charge against Rice in favor of court-supervised counseling.

After Goodell drew criticism for not being tough enough on Rice, he wrote a letter to all 32 NFL owners in August saying he “didn’t get it right.” First-time offenders now face a six-game suspension. “We didn’t get that (punishment) right and realized our policies need to be updated,” he told USA Today.

Goodell also was criticized for not understanding the gravity of the case and not doing more to unearth evidence. In a statement, though, the league said Tuesday that it had requested “any and all information about the incident, including any video that may exist” from law enforcement officials and “that video was not made available to us and no one in our office saw it until yesterday.”

The NFL did not specify whether it sought any information from the hotel, which captured the altercation on its security cameras.

The Ravens had not taken any public action against Rice until Monday. Coach John Harbaugh stood by Rice throughout the summer, and on Monday, he told reporters that he would be willing to help Rice and his wife if needed.

Releasing Rice represented a complete reversal for the team, even though an Atlantic City police summons stated that Rice caused “bodily injury to Janay Palmer, specifically by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious.”

The Ravens had used words like “respect” and “proud” in referring to Rice following his arrest.

Asked Monday night if Rice misled him, Harbaugh said he didn’t want to get into “all that.”

Rice, 27, stood to make $4 million this year. He had been charged with felony aggravated assault in the case, but in May he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program that allowed him to avoid jail time and could lead to the charge being purged from his record.

He leaves the Ravens as the second-leading rusher in franchise history, behind only Jamal Lewis. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Rice is the team’s career leader in total yards from scrimmage (9,214) and is the only player in Ravens history to rush for 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons.

OTHER RICE DEVELOPMENTS

Nike and Electronic Arts are among the businesses that announced Tuesday they have cut ties with Rice following the release of a video showing him striking his then-fiancee in February.

The Ravens announced that they would offer an exchange for his jerseys at stadium stores. The Patriots did the same last year after tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder.

A Fox News Channel host defended statements made on “Fox & Friends” on Monday. Brian Kilmeade insisted the network’s morning show “Fox & Friends didn’t make light of domestic abuse after it was criticized for comments made about the video. Kilmeade, on Monday’s show, had said the lesson to be learned from the incident was — quote — “take the stairs.”

On Tuesday, Kilmeade addressed but didn’t apologize for the remark. He said the remarks made some feel like the “Fox & Friends” hosts were taking the situation too lightly. Kilmeade said: “We are not. We were not. Domestic abuse is a very serious issue to us, I can assure you.”

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