Friday evening, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” (OTL) provided a comprehensive timeline of events regarding the Ray Rice incident, starting with the night of the February incident and leading up through NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s Press Conference Friday afternoon.
Contributing to the reporting was Kevin Van Valkenburg. For disclosure purposes, Van Valkenburg has previously been a ‘Ravens Radio Analyst’ for Baltimore Sports and Life (BSL), and appears as a guest regularly on BSL’s Sports Tonight with Rob & Mike.
The Ravens have provided their own reaction to the article, stating the following in a Press Release: “The ESPN “Outside the Lines” article contains numerous errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings. The Ravens will address all of these next week in Baltimore after our trip to Cleveland for Sunday’s game against the Browns.”
When the Ravens leadership states what they see as the errors in the article, those comments can be dissected. For now, we are going to look at the reporting provided by ESPN’s OTL, and provide our reaction to that.
Let’s go through the article a bit at a time:
OTL: Just hours after running back Ray Rice knocked out his then-fiancée with a left hook at the Revel Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Baltimore Ravens’ director of security, Darren Sanders, reached an Atlantic City police officer by phone. While watching surveillance video — shot from inside the elevator where Rice’s punch knocked his fiancée unconscious — the officer, who told Sanders he just happened to be a Ravens fan, described in detail to Sanders what he was seeing.
Sanders quickly relayed the damning video’s play-by-play to team executives in Baltimore, unknowingly starting a seven-month odyssey that has mushroomed into the biggest crisis confronting a commissioner in the NFL’s 95-year history.
BSL Reaction: In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Ravens Director of Security Darren Sanders was trying to ascertain the facts. Confirmation of events as they played out via video evidence from a Police Officer certainly qualifies. OTL states the events were described in detail to Sanders, who provided what he was told to team executives.
Do Ravens team executives agree with this portrayal? What did Sanders say to team executives, and to whom?
OTL: The Ravens also consulted frequently with Rice’s Philadelphia defense attorney, Michael J. Diamondstein, who in early April had obtained a copy of the inside-elevator video and told Cass: “It’s f—ing horrible.” Cass did not request a copy of the video from Diamondstein but instead began urging Rice’s legal team to get Rice accepted into a pretrial intervention program after being told some of the program’s benefits. Among them: It would keep the inside-elevator video from becoming public.
BSL Reaction: Did the comments that Sanders relayed to team executives match what Diamondstein told Dick Cass? If so, that is two direct accounts of what happened by people who saw the video. If the stories of the Atlantic City Police Officer (as delivered by Sanders) and Rice’s Attorney differed at all, would not that again be reason to want to see the video? Do the Ravens deny that Diamondstein provided the above commentary to Cass? Do the Ravens deny that they did not ask Diamondstein for a copy of the video? If the Ravens agree that Diamondstein provided that commentary – do they feel their reaction was appropriate? If the Ravens agree that they did not ask Diamondstein for a copy of the video, what was the rationale for not doing so?
OTL: For its part, the NFL — which in other player discipline cases has been able to obtain information that’s been sealed by court order — took an uncharacteristically passive approach when it came to gathering evidence, opening itself up to widespread criticism, allegations of inconsistent approaches to player discipline and questions about whether Goodell gave Rice — the corporate face of the Baltimore franchise — a light punishment as a favor to his good friend Bisciotti. Four sources said Ravens executives, including Bisciotti, Cass and Newsome, urged Goodell and other league executives to give Rice no more than a two-game suspension, and that’s what Goodell did on July 24.
BSL Reaction: The Commissioner is an employee of the NFL Owners – and with a $44M salary – has 44 million reasons for wanting to keep his employers happy. One ramification of all of this, is that player discipline is ultimately going to have to be doled out by an Independent 3rd Party. Of course as we will get into later, it is clear that the NFL’s definition of ‘Independent’ differs from that of most people.
Keeping our focus on the Ravens here, ESPN has four sources saying the Ravens leadership argued for a two-game suspension. Do the Ravens deny this? If the Ravens do not deny this, why would they argue that it was appropriate? If the answer is that the Ravens had decided to support their employee, why would they be so vocal in their support when the claim today is that they definitively did not know (had not viewed the 2nd video) exactly what had happened on the elevator?
OTL: Most sources spoke with “Outside the Lines” on the condition of anonymity, citing the NFL’s just-launched, self-described independent investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the former FBI chief, which is being overseen by John Mara, the New York Giants’ owner, and Art Rooney II, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ co-owner. Mara and Rooney are close confidants of Goodell’s. The interviews, viewed together, paint a picture of a league and a franchise whose actions — and inaction — combined to conceal — or ignore — the graphic violence of Rice’s assault. When evidence of it surfaced anyway, the NFL and the Ravens quickly shifted gears and simultaneously attempted to pin the blame on Rice and his alleged lack of truthfulness with Goodell about what had happened inside the elevator.
BSL Reaction: Rooney and Mara have strong reputations, and Mueller has plenty of credentials. That said, Rooney and Mara are owners, and Mueller has been hired by the NFL. Might be hard to show proper accountability with those conflicts of interest.
OTL: The Ravens responded to various questions Friday and disputed “Outside the Lines’” reporting, saying it was not their initial understanding Rice had knocked out Janay “with a punch.” As for Cass working with Diamondstein, the Ravens said Cass made it clear that “Ray and his lawyer should proceed based on their assessment of what was in Ray’s best interests.” The team declined to make Sanders available, saying he was traveling.
BSL Reaction: When the Ravens respond to this story next week, I want to hear whose initial understanding it was, that it was not ‘a punch’ which had knocked out Janay. Sanders had spoken to the Atlantic City Police Officer, who had seen the video, and provided detail to Sanders. Who did Sanders inform in the Ravens leadership? How was Ravens leadership informed? Email? A call? In-person? What caused Ravens leadership to initially believe it was not ‘a punch’? If the Ravens agree that Diamondstein later told Cass the particulars – did Diamondstein’s account match that of the Atlantic City Police Officer and Sanders? If Diamondstein’s account differed from whatever caused Ravens leadership to believe it was not ‘a punch’, why did that not cause a change of thinking with the Ravens?
OTL: Bisciotti and Cass contend that, after the elevator doors closed that morning, they did not have a full picture of what happened until September. “It was our understanding based on Ray’s account that in the course of a physical altercation between the two of them he slapped Janay with an open hand, and that she hit her head against the elevator rail or wall as she fell to the ground,” the Ravens said in a statement Friday afternoon. But sources both affiliated and unaffiliated with the team tell “Outside the Lines” a different story: The Ravens’ head of security, Sanders, heard a detailed description of the inside-elevator scene within hours and shared it with Ravens officials in Baltimore.
BSL Reaction: Who with the Ravens exactly had the understanding that it was an open handed slap? Why would the Ravens rely on Ray’s account of events, when they were aware there was video evidence somewhere providing a definitive and an answer of events without bias?
OTL: Goodell has been steadfast that no one in the NFL had seen the inside-elevator video until Sept. 8, the same day the public did. Both the team and the league presumably had a copy of the police report: Ray and Janay were arrested shortly before 3 a.m. on Feb. 15 and charged with simple assault. Rice was accused of “assault by attempting to cause bodily injury to J. Palmer, specifically by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious, at the Revel Casino,” the police report says. (Janay’s charges would later be dropped.)
But within hours of the elevator attack, an employee of the Ravens was describing the inside-elevator video to friends in graphic detail, telling confidants that Rice knocked out his then-fiancée with a punch and that the video was “really bad,” according to a source close to a Ravens official.
“I was told, ‘It has to get better for Ray Rice, or he’s going to get cut,’ ” the source said.
BSL Reaction: How could an employee of the Ravens provide graphic detail of the events inside the elevator (hours after the attack) without seeing the video? The only logical answer would be that the account of the Atlantic City Police Officer to Sanders was making the rounds at Owings Mills. Again, who in the Ravens leadership did Sanders provide what he had heard? That the video evidence made public in September confirms the accounts which people were hearing hours after the event, is pretty telling. It means that people inside the Castle had been told one series of events in February. If Rice’s description of events later differed with what people in the organization understood to be true; why wouldn’t the organization have worked to reconcile those differences? If people in the Castle knew the events inside the elevator with graphic detail, hours after the event, when (and who) came away with the understanding that it was a slap? (That the Ravens claim today was their initial understanding.)
OTL: Sanders relayed the information he had obtained on Feb. 15 to his bosses, but whether he spoke directly with Bisciotti or Cass or someone else who relayed the information remains unclear.
BSL Reaction: If Sanders contacted someone below Bisciotti and Cass, it stands to reason that whomever was contacted, would have made Bisciotti and Cass immediately aware of the information Sanders was passing on from the Atlantic City Police Officer. If Bisciotti and Cass could not speak on their own to the Atlantic City Police Offer, it stands to reason that they would want to speak to Sanders (if they had not already), and get the information as direct possible.
OTL: Four days after the incident, TMZ Sports released a different surveillance video, shot from outside of the elevator, showing Rice impassively dragging Janay’s unconscious body out of the elevator. Although the grainy video did not show what had happened behind the elevator’s doors, the images horrified Ravens coach John Harbaugh, according to four sources inside and outside the organization. The Super Bowl-winning coach urged his bosses to release Rice immediately, especially if the team had evidence Rice had thrown a punch. That opinion was shared by George Kokinis, the Baltimore director of player personnel, according to a fifth source outside the organization but familiar with the team’s thinking. But Harbaugh’s recommendation to cut the six-year veteran running back was quickly rejected by Ravens management: owner Bisciotti, team president Cass and GM Newsome.
BSL Reaction: Four sources in and outside the organization confirmed to ESPN that Harbaugh wanted Rice released after the initial video release. A fifth source confirmed Kokinis felt the same. That’s a lot of sources to all have the wrong info.
OTL: To understand why Ravens executives rushed to defend Rice, who had his worst year as a pro in 2013 with an average of 3.1 yards per carry, one needs to consider how important he had become to the franchise in general and, in particular, to Bisciotti. No player did more for the community than Rice, and no player on the team embraced the city of Baltimore the way he did. Rice named his daughter, Rayven, after the team’s nickname. He had the “Baltimore” tattooed on his forearms. He became friends with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, appearing with her regularly at charity events. He raised millions for sick children, urged the state legislature in Annapolis to pass anti-bullying laws and hosted a football camp for hundreds of disadvantaged kids each year. He even dressed up as Santa Claus at an event hosted by the House of Ruth, a Baltimore shelter for victims of domestic violence. During the week before the Super Bowl this year, two weeks before the incident, Rice appeared on an anti-bullying panel. Perhaps most visibly, Rice was the longtime spokesman for M&T Bank, one of the team’s main sponsors and one that has its name on the Ravens’ stadium. Practically every time Bisciotti asked Rice to make an appearance on behalf of the team, he’d say yes.
BSL Reaction: Maybe not all the time, but often in life when you look for answers to questions, the correct place to start is with the money. There were financial ramifications to cutting Rice, as detailed here by Russell Street Report’s Brian McFarland. After those financial concerns, there was the opinion shared by many (including myself) that Rice was in for a rebound on the field. He has been hampered by a poor hip, extra weight, and a terrible offensive line last year. It should have been expected that he would perform better in 2014 than he did in 2013. It’s easier to support a player when A) There are financial issues with parting ways, B) You anticipate production, and C) The player has done things previously to build up a level of good-will with the team and the community.
OTL: We kind of heard what we wanted to hear and imagined what we wanted to imagine because we loved Ray,” Bisciotti told The Baltimore Sun last week about the team’s initial reaction to the Rice incident.
BSL Reaction: That is a cop out, and the reaction becoming of fans. Even if you go with this idea, that the Ravens ‘heard what they wanted to hear’; it is simply more plausible to believe that the Ravens heard what they wanted to hear - because they thought it made the most sense for their business.
OTL: Despite whatever private objections Harbaugh might have had, he was soon toeing the company line in public, selling the team’s decision to support Rice to the media.
BSL Reaction: Anyone that has ever worked for a large corporation, or frankly just had a Boss can identify with the idea of having to toe the company line. Sometimes you might not agree with the decision making above you, but it is your job to support those policies in public. If Harbaugh objected enough, he probably could have adopted a policy of referring all questions to those above him.
OTL: The day after the incident in Atlantic City, Rice met Kyle Jakobe, his personal trainer and one of his closest friends, at Jakobe’s gym, Sweat Performance, in Timonium, Maryland. In Jakobe’s office, Rice wept as he described what happened between him and his future wife. “I’m holding him, he’s crying, he’s devastated,” Jakobe said. According to Jakobe, Rice didn’t sugarcoat what happened. The running back told his friend much of what we now know: Rice struck Janay in the face with his left fist and sent her careening into the elevator wall, where she struck her head and was knocked out instantly. “He motioned it to me,” Jakobe said, making a closed fist and bringing it across his body. “He was like ‘Hey, this is what happened.’”
BSL Reaction: By Jakobe’s own admission, he is a close friend of Rice. So it is not surprising this reads as a pro-Rice slant. That said, it also reads as very realistic. It shows that Rice did have immediate remorse, and was immediately owning up to his actions to those closest to him. If there is any reason to believe Jakobe is not credible, I do not see it.
OTL: Rice also leveled with his general manager, Newsome, who had a Hall of Fame career as a tight end with the Cleveland Browns. Rice sat down with Harbaugh, as well, and Harbaugh later described their conversation in a June interview with ESPN The Magazine. “I talked to Ray right away,” Harbaugh said, “and what he told me right away — we always tell our guys, ‘Never lie, never cheat, never steal’ — he told me the exact truth of what happened, and it held up all the way through. He didn’t sugarcoat it, he admitted what he did wrong, he explained everything to a T. Everything I’ve heard since then is held up to what he said.”
BSL Reaction: When Newsome (with Bisciotti, and Cass) met recently with The Sun, Newsome said Rice’s comments to him matched what was on the second video released by TMZ. If there was someone in the Ravens organization who initially believed it was an open-hand slap, and not a punch (and that ‘difference’ helped determine the Ravens course of action), why did that person have a different understanding of events vs. Newsome? How could Harbaugh say in June, that Rice told him ‘the exact truth’ of what happened; if Harbaugh (or at-least someone with the Ravens) had not seen video of inside the elevator? The only way Rice’s statement of ‘exact truth’ can match what the Ravens knew in June (if you believe they had not seen the video); is if Rice’s statement is an exact match to the comments provided to the Ravens / Sanders by the Atlantic City Police Officer, and to Cass in April by Rice’s Attorney Diamondstein. If there was any difference in the accounts by Sanders, Diamondstein, and Rice – the Ravens would need the visual evidence to have an ‘exact truth’, right?
OTL: Rice needed a criminal defense lawyer — a good one — and, through a referral from a Baltimore lawyer, he hired Diamondstein, a fiery Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer, on Monday, Feb. 17. Diamondstein began a series of conversations with Cass, a lawyer as well as the Ravens team president, about strategy on how to resolve Rice’s criminal case as quickly, and as quietly, as possible, team sources and other sources say. Diamondstein received his marching orders from Rice: “Keep me out of jail, and keep my bosses happy.” By midday Wednesday, Feb. 19, the lawyer had worked out a plea deal with a local prosecutor in Atlantic City municipal court: Rice would enter counseling and if there were no other incidents involving him within 90 days, the case would be dismissed. The inside-elevator surveillance video would not be released. But that was the day TMZ released the outside-elevator video. Everything changed.
BSL Reaction: ESPN is understandably not going to reveal their source here, but think about what they are stating. They’ve been told that a plea deal had been worked out in a matter of days, and that the inside-elevator video would be not be released. If you believe the Ravens made an early calculation of events, factoring into their equation the belief that the inside elevator video would never be released; their actions in the subsequent months become easier to understand. Everything should have changed when the outside-elevator video was released. Had Rice been released at this point, things look a lot different for the organization today.
OTL: But after Ravens offensive lineman Jah Reid was arrested March 8 in Key West, Florida, and charged with two counts of battery for his role in a bar fight, Harbaugh, according to several sources, again went to Newsome and advocated that the three Ravens players arrested in the offseason — Rice, Reid and wide receiver Deonte Thompson — be released. Newsome, according to what Rice was told, bristled at the recommendation, saying he was the decision-maker in the matter, not Harbaugh, and he believed in second chances. Newsome believed if the team had weathered the controversy in 2000 when All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis was charged in a double homicide after a Super Bowl party in Atlanta, and had endured the criticism after running back Jamal Lewis’ guilty plea to cocaine trafficking in 2004, it could certainly weather the controversy surrounding this trio of arrests, too. The Ravens on Friday denied this: “John Harbaugh did not want to release Ray Rice until he saw the second video on September 8 for the first time. The video changed everything for all of us,” the team said.
“Ozzie has always looked out for Ray,” said John Minadakis, one of Rice’s closest friends, “and Ray has always looked up to Ozzie as a father figure. He didn’t want to see Ray crucified for this.”
BSL Reaction: If this is an accurate portrayal, I don’t expect Harbaugh to confirm this in public due to chain-of-command. What I would expect, or at-least like to see – is Newsome confirm this. Simply say, “Coach offered his opinion, I disagreed and made the decision I deemed correct for the organization.” As established above, Harbaugh told ESPN The Magazine in June that Rice had stated the ‘exact truth.’ Without the second video, there could only be an ‘exact truth’ if Rice’s comments matched what had been told to the Ravens organization by the Atlantic City Police Officer, and Rice’s lawyer. If the second video changed everything for all of the Ravens leadership, then there was no ‘exact truth’ in June. You can’t have it both ways.
OTL: Rice’s situation was tumultuous for the Ravens in more ways than one. In 2011, Rice became the primary face of an M&T Bank advertising campaign that plays in heavy rotation on Baltimore radio and television. It’s also frequently featured in the pages of The Sun and in local magazines. From 2011 to 2014, a person could scarcely go an hour without seeing or hearing Rice pushing M&T Bank check cards, or repeating the advertising campaign’s slogan “Raise the Green Flag!” a slogan the bank says is meant to symbolize a “strong ray of hope in a time of turmoil.” M&T Bank — which operates more than 700 branches on the East Coast and has $90 billion in assets — entered into a 15-year, $75 million sponsorship deal with the Ravens in 2003, and that deal included the naming rights to the Ravens’ downtown stadium. In May, the company extended the naming rights and sponsorship agreement with the team for $60 million over 10 years. A source says the bank expressed concerns about the Rice matter to the Ravens after the first TMZ video had become public.
BSL Reaction: This again illustrates and reminds of the obvious point that the NFL is big business. Rice’s days as a pitch-man were over as soon as the initial video became public.
OTL: An avid golfer with a 10 handicap, Bisciotti played 27 holes on March 18 and another 27 holes on March 19 at Augusta National Golf Club, where he is not a member. Goodell, who is also an avid golfer, became an Augusta member in 2013. Goodell and Bisciotti have become good friends, and talk of golf is a lubricant of their friendship, several sources say. The Ravens said Friday that Goodell and Bisciotti did not see one another at Augusta during the owner’s time at the club. Five days after returning to Baltimore from Augusta, Bisciotti spoke to reporters for the first time about the Rice matter. “He’ll be back with the team,” Bisciotti said. “He’ll definitely be back. I know how terribly disappointing it is to Ray and his fiancée, how embarrassing it is for them. I have compassion towards him.”
Then, on March 27, an Atlantic County grand jury handed up an indictment against Rice, increasing the charge he faced from simple assault to felony aggravated assault in the third degree, for “attempting to cause significant bodily injury, and/or purposely or knowingly causing such injury, and/or recklessly causing such injury under extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
Suddenly, the Ray Rice case had become more serious. He now faced a potential prison sentence of three to five years. And yet, according to public statements made by Bisciotti and other team officials, the team decided at that point to stop seeking to obtain or even view a copy of the inside-elevator video.
BSL Reaction: It certainly reads like an insinuation from ESPN that Bisciotti and Goodell could have met at August, but ESPN gained the denial from the Ravens directly. Why would the Ravens state in late March that Rice would definitively be back, if they felt they did not have a definitive account of Rice’s actions that night? Other than Rice’s account to them matching what they had been told by others, why else would they elect to stop seeking the video inside the elevator?
OTL: Ultimately, on April 1, the Revel, under subpoena, provided Diamondstein with a copy, and he received the same copy from prosecutors on April 5. By phone, Diamondstein told Cass that the video was “f—ing horrible” and that it was clear “Ray knocked her the f— out.” The lawyer advised Cass that the video, if released, would amount to a public relations disaster for the Ravens and for his client.
Cass listened carefully but never asked Diamondstein to provide the Ravens with a copy of the video — nor, for that matter, did anyone from the NFL ask Diamondstein for a copy, several sources say.
BSL Reaction: It’s hard to read those comments and believe they were supplied to ESPN from anyone but Diamondstein. It’s a direct quote in a closed conversation. If it was Diamondstein who gave ESPN this quote, who did? Is there a recording? Was someone else privy to the call? Rice’s own lawyer tells Cass on April 5th that Rice knocked her out. If up until April 5th Cass and/or someone else with the Ravens believed the events to be different; why did things not change for them when they heard this? Do the Ravens deny that Diamondstein stated this to Cass? If the Ravens agree that Diamondstein stated this to Cass, why did Ravens not ask for the video?
OTL: Instead, Cass strategized on the best next move for Rice in court, agreeing with Diamondstein that the video would almost certainly become public if the Rice case went to trial. Cass agreed with Diamondstein that getting Rice accepted into New Jersey’s pretrial intervention program, which is for first-time offenders charged with nonviolent crimes, would be the best outcome for Rice and the Ravens. It not only would keep Rice out of jail but also would fortify the team’s argument to Goodell that Rice should be given a suspension of fewer games because he had entered a diversionary program.
BSL Reaction: The best outcome for the Ravens was having Rice back on the field. That outcome was more plausible, if the video inside the elevator never became public, or if the Ravens never had to acknowledge they had seen the events on the video prior to it becoming available to the public.
OTL: For his part, Rice spent most of his time working out at Sweat Performance, a gym regularly frequented by Ravens football players, their wives and girlfriends, and up-and-coming high school and college football players. One afternoon in mid-April, Rice and Jakobe finished a workout just as a group of 15 high school football players entered the gym to begin their own grueling training session. Rice asked the players to form a semicircle around him, then he began talking. The speech lasted only a few minutes, but right away, Rice began to cry as he tried to get the words out. He put his arms around the nearest boys, several of whom were now crying, as well, and the semicircle closed in to become more like a football huddle. I made a huge mistake. I hit my wife, and I’m so sorry. But I want to tell you, please don’t focus on trying to be the kind of man I was. Focus on being a better man than I was.
Back in Atlantic County, New Jersey, Diamondstein was wrangling with prosecutors to get the pretrial intervention program for Rice. Initially, prosecutors rejected it as an option. But Diamondstein pressed, and, by early May, he had put together a package of nearly 30 letters of support, from Rice’s former Rutgers University coach Greg Schiano, friends and teammates, even one from Ashton Dean, an 8-year-old boy from Harford County, Maryland, who had a rare disease and for whom Rice had helped raise money. The leaders of the Ravens also wrote a letter on Rice’s behalf. In a letter to Diamondstein dated May 9, Cass, Newsome and Harbaugh extolled Rice’s contributions to the community, charities and his team.
BSL Reaction: Again, we see a slant of commentary here likely provided by Rice’s friend Jakobe. Still, I see nothing here that discredits Jakobe. Another example of Rice showing remorse in a ‘private’ setting is good to hear. Obviously does not eliminate the action though. Zero problem in my opinion with the Ravens leadership extolling Rice’s contributions to the community, charities, and his team in a criminal setting. That’s different then asking the NFL to be lenient with their punishment.
OTL: Four days later, first assistant prosecutor Diane Ruberton signed off on the pretrial intervention program. And on May 20, Rice and his wife marched into the courtroom of Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Michael A. Donio, who granted Rice’s entry into the diversionary program. If Rice completed the one-year program, including attending anger management classes, the court would dismiss the felony aggravated assault charge. The arrest would remain on Rice’s record, but without a conviction. PTI is an unusual result for defendants charged with aggravated assault in the third degree, defense lawyers and New Jersey domestic violence legal advocates say; less than 1 percent of all assault and aggravated assault cases in New Jersey are resolved by PTI, according to data obtained by “Outside the Lines.”
“The decision was arrived at after careful consideration of the information contained in Mr. Rice’s application in light of all of the facts gathered during the investigation,” prosecutor McClain said that day.
BSL Reaction: It’s not shocking that Rice would fall into the less than 1 percent that receives PTI.
OTL: On May 23, Rice and his wife addressed the media at a Ravens-hosted news conference in Baltimore. While they sat side by side — no Baltimore executives or media relations staff accompanied them — Rice apologized for letting the public down, but did not apologize to his wife. Domestic violence experts criticized the optics of the event, saying the team insensitively propped up an abused woman next to her abuser for the cameras. During the event, the Ravens’ official Twitter account sent out this tweet: “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”
BSL Reaction: That was disturbing on multiple levels.
OTL: Inside the NFL’s New York City headquarters at 345 Park Ave. on June 16, Goodell presided over Rice’s disciplinary meeting. Ray and Janay Rice were accompanied by Newsome and Cass as well as by two NFLPA representatives. Goodell was joined by Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s senior vice president of labor policy, and NFL general counsel Jeff Pash. Several former executives and lawyers who represent players and coaches before the league said a player or coach facing discipline is rarely accompanied by the team GM and the team president in a hearing before Goodell and league officials. A league source insists it has happened numerous times before, but he did not provide examples. Before leaving for New York, Rice was told by several Ravens executives that he had better be completely honest and forthcoming with the commissioner because the organization believed Goodell had seen a copy of the inside-elevator video. A source confirmed to “Outside the Lines” that the team believed this. It’s unclear why exactly the Ravens thought Goodell had seen the video — whether they had been told that or whether they assumed so given the league’s aggressive investigative tactics in other cases.
BSL Reaction: The Ravens leadership providing testimony on Rice’s behalf in a criminal case is understandable to me. Appearing with Rice before Goodell seems odd. In any event, it was another opportunity for the Ravens to hear Rice’s account of events. Can the NFLPA reps confirm what Rice said? Do Birch, and Pash claim that Rice gave details of the event different than what the second video would later show? Did the Ravens leadership provide the commentary relayed to them by the Atlantic City Police Officer, or Diamondstein?
OTL: With his wife sitting by his side in a conference room, Rice told Goodell that he hit her and knocked her out, according to four sources. Cass and Newsome spoke on Rice’s behalf. So did Janay, who emotionally asked Goodell not to impose a penalty on Rice that would take away their livelihood and besmirch his name. At the end of the meeting, according to several sources, Goodell invited Ray and Janay to have a brief private chat with him in his office; during the conversation, the commissioner spoke about how Ray Rice could be a spokesman in the future against domestic violence, the sources said. Rice later told friends the commissioner spent the majority of the meeting discussing Rice’s reputation as a positive role model in the community.
BSL Reaction: Four sources say Rice told Goodell that he hit Janay. Was there discrepancy between what the Ravens were hearing here, and what the Ravens say they initially believed? Should Janay’s testimony been taken separately, without Ray at her side?
OTL: Last week, Goodell told CBS News that, during the disciplinary meeting, Rice provided an “ambiguous” account of what had happened inside the elevator. And in its Sept. 12 letter justifying the indefinite suspension, the league said Rice’s account was “starkly different” from what was seen on the inside-elevator video. Four sources, however, told “Outside the Lines” that Rice gave Goodell a truthful account that he struck his fiancée. Furthermore, it would seem that if Rice had given an “ambiguous” account, sources say Goodell had even more incentive to try to obtain a copy of the in-elevator video to clear up any lingering questions. But he did not do that. “For you not to have seen the video is inexcusable,” a league source told “Outside the Lines.” “Because everybody was under the impression that you had.” But after the June 16 meeting with Ray and Janay Rice, the league made no additional effort to obtain the video, Goodell himself acknowledged last week. The NFL also did not seek a copy of the video from Rice’s defense attorney, according to several sources.
BSL Reaction: Why was the NFL relying solely on Rice’s testimony? Four sources say Rice’s testimony was not ambiguous. Who backs up Goodell’s version of events? It is hard to envision a scenario where Goodell is not forced to resign.
OTL: By early July, NFL beat reporters kept hearing Rice would get a six-game suspension. But privately, Ravens officials said they felt confident Rice would get only two games. One source who spoke to Cass said he had heard at least two weeks before Goodell announced the penalty that Rice would receive only a two-game suspension. Rice’s friends say he didn’t hear his suspension was two games until July 23, the day before Goodell announced it. Almost immediately, there was widespread criticism of and questions about Goodell’s investigation, evidence and judgment. Some reporters who cover the NFL had implied in their reports that the inside-elevator video had justified the lenient punishment. That prompted some broadcasters and reporters to attempt to ask league officials what they had seen, if anything: In an ESPN Radio interview on July 28, host Mike Greenberg twice asked Birch, the NFL’s labor policy vice president, whether Goodell had screened the inside-elevator video of Rice’s assault on his then-fiancée. Each time, Birch declined to answer, citing “privacy” concerns, presumably of the Rices. Birch also said league officials, including Goodell, were satisfied the two-game punishment was appropriate after considering all the circumstances.
BSL Reaction: At the time of Rice’s May 23rd Press Conference, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said he expected Rice to be suspended 3 games. That he had been told additional video showed Rice striking her twice in the elevator, with her hitting the elevator rail with her head. Matches what came out with the release of the second video in September. Presumably the Ravens, and NFL heard Mortensen’s report at that time as well. Mortensen could track down what happened in the elevator – without ambiguity – but the Ravens, and NFL could not?
OTL: But within days of his announcement, Goodell confided to someone in his inner circle that he wasn’t sure he had done the right thing on the Rice suspension, according to two people familiar with the exchange. The person, who speaks with the commissioner regularly, said he came away from the conversation with the strong impression Goodell regretted that someone had talked him out of leveling a tougher penalty against Ray Rice. Yet the criticism of Goodell over the appropriateness of the two-game suspension only intensified. On Aug. 1, Goodell defended his decision, telling reporters, “I take into account all of the information before I make a decision on what the discipline will be. In this case, there was no discipline by the criminal justice system. They put him in that diversionary program.” No reporter, however, asked Goodell whether he had seen the inside-elevator video.
BSL Reaction: It was one thing for the Ravens to come to Rice’s defense as character witnesses in the criminal proceedings, but they should not have petitioned the NFL for leniency. Even if they did, it would be a cop out from Goodell to put the suspension leveled out on anyone but himself. When Goodell says he takes into account all of the information before making a decision, it should be reasonable to believe that would include existing visual evidence within a Casino hotel.
OTL: With public pressure mounting from players, women’s right’s advocates and domestic violence experts, Goodell wrote a lengthy letter on Aug. 28 to the league’s 32 owners to announce he had decided to change the league’s personal conduct policy involving domestic violence incidents. The unilateral decision was extraordinary: A player’s first offense would now get a mandatory six-game suspension; a second incident would merit a player being barred from the league.
“I didn’t get it right,” Goodell wrote in the letter to the owners. “Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.” Goodell outlined a host of domestic violence reforms he would shepherd. “Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong,” he wrote. “They are illegal. They are never acceptable and they have no place in the NFL under any circumstances.”
BSL Reaction: Public pressure changed the reaction, and that’s fine. You want to eventually get things right, vs. sticking to a failed policy.
OTL: Bisciotti and the team released a letter to Ravens season-ticket holders contending that the team had not seen the video until the morning of Sept. 8, when TMZ released it to the public, and that they found it “violent and horrifying” and had voted unanimously to release Rice. Bisciotti also stated that the team would be donating $600,000 to the House of Ruth, the Baltimore shelter for battered women. Rice and his friends read the letter with barely concealed contempt and disgust. “I think a lot of people were quick to say ‘Oh what a stand-up guy,’” Jakobe said. “I think if you look at it objectively, it’s a massive cover-up attempt.”
BSL Reaction: I can believe that the Ravens found the video ‘violent and horrifying.’ It stresses the imagination to believe the that the events on the video surprised the organization. If it did, that is only because the Ravens willfully conducted a negligent investigation. I don’t think I disagree with Jakobe’s take, but the $600,000 donation should not be sneezed at either. It can do a lot of good. One positive out of this mess has been increased National discussion spotlighting the horrors of abuse.
OTL: Minutes later, Rice’s phone buzzed. He could scarcely believe what he was looking at– back-to-back text messages from Bisciotti. Rice read them aloud so everyone in the room could hear them: Hey Ray, just want to let you know, we loved you as a player, it was great having you here. Hopefully all these things are going to die down. I wish the best for you and Janay. When you’re done with football, I’d like you to know you have a job waiting for you with the Ravens helping young guys getting acclimated to the league. Rice was flabbergasted. One minute Bisciotti and the Ravens were essentially calling him a liar, the next Bisciotti was quietly offering him a job? Asked about the text messages Friday, the team did not deny Bisciotti had sent them: “His text messages to Ray reflect his belief that everyone is capable of redemption and that others, including players, can learn from Ray’s experience.”
BSL Reaction: In the context of the events of that day, that text at that moment seems inappropriate.
OTL: “Outside the Lines” contacted Harbaugh on Friday morning to ask if he felt he’d been kept in the dark during any part of the process, and the coach reaffirmed his stance that he did not know Rice had violently punched his future wife until Sept. 9, when TMZ released the second video from inside the elevator.
BSL Reaction: Basically, I want to know how anyone with the Ravens can make the claim that they were in the dark about the events inside the elevator prior to the release of the second video. When the second video came out, it was an odd decision by the organization to have Harbaugh initially answering questions by himself from the media. In this case, the quote here is from Harbaugh, but I think any further answers have to come from above.
In summation, there have been many things which have made Ravens fans shake their collective heads since February. You have to question some of the collective decision making. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens organization responds to this article this coming week.