There’s nothing funnier than having an organization investigate itself. Time and time again “independent” investigations of anything run by the organization that’s under fire eventually lead to one of two things: a) total vindication, or b) a glossed over version of the events that attempts to shine the actions of that organization in such a way that it seems like they did less wrong than they actually did. The NFL commissioned Robert Mueller Report, which is the review of the NFL’s investigation of the Ray Rice incident, falls squarely into the second option.
The report, authored by former FBI director Robert Mueller, is 96 pages in length and in the spirit of openness the NFL decided to release it publically so everyone could read it. The NFL did this knowing that very few would actually do so. If anyone cares to they can download the report from the USA Today site. I’ll save you the trouble. The most damning evidence can be found on page seven of the document.
Our investigation identified a number of investigative steps that the League did not take to acquire additional information about what occurred inside the elevator. League investigators did not contact any of the police officers who investigated the incident, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, or the Revel to attempt to obtain or view the in-elevator video or to obtain other information. No one from the League asked Rice or his lawyer whether they would make available for viewing the in-elevator video they received as part of criminal discovery in early April. And, after the initial contacts with the Ravens in the immediate aftermath of the incident, League investigators did not follow up with the Ravens to determine whether the team had additional information.
I can boil that quoted text down to one sentence: The NFL did essentially nothing in its original investigation of the Ray Rice incident.
It’s not like investigating the incident would have been that hard either. As an occasional visitor to casinos I know that virtually every square inch of the public areas in those buildings is under video surveillance. How is it possible an NFL security person wouldn’t know that the incident in the elevator would have been caught on video? Any reasonable person would certainly have at least asked, and by the NFL’s own admission, they didn’t do that. They also didn’t contact local law enforcement. Now granted either Revel or the police could have told the NFL to go pound sand and not cooperated, but that would have gotten the NFL off the hook. They can’t force outside people or organizations into helping, so not getting their help would certainly be a legitimate reason to not be able to get evidence from them.
But the NFL didn’t even bother going through the motions.
Even more damning for the NFL, in her Summary of Decision in Ray Rice’s appeal of his indefinite suspension retired judge Barbara S. Jones said, “…I am not persuaded that Rice lied to, or misled, the NFL at his June interview…”. This means, in the most simple terms, that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell lied. His claim that he was mislead by Rice in the earlier interview about the incident that lead to Rice’s two game suspension is patently false.
At least one talking head on ESPN reported, long before Goodell suspended Rice, they had talked to people that had seen the Rice video. I don’t recall who said it, but I clearly remember the phase “not pretty” being used to describe it. I’m going out on a limb here in saying that the NFL offices have a television occasionally tuned to ESPN, so that in itself should have raised red flags when a commentator claims s/he knew people that had seen the video. You would think the question “what video?” would jump to mind in the NFL offices, and then maybe they would reach out to ESPN for more information. ESPN, being a broadcast partner of the NFL, likely wouldn’t kill the golden goose and would at least point the NFL in the right direction.
The NFL has failed in every way possible in the Ray Rice incident. Even if one were to take their original claims at face value they still made tremendous errors in both their actions and public perceptions of the event. When the video was released on a couple of sports’ forums I said that if Goodell was lying he needed to be fired for taking part in a cover-up, and if he was telling the truth he needed to be fired for incompetence. Turns out he’s part of an incompetent cover up. The way the NFL works, he’s likely now in line for a raise.