The National Football League’s story about how it handled the Ray Rice domestic violence situation may be further unraveling.
The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that an unnamed law enforcement official sent an NFL executive the video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in April, months before it was released by TMZ. The report contradicts the claims of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that no one in the league office had seen the footage before it became public on Monday.
“We have no knowledge of this,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN in response to the report. “We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it.”
Goodell had insisted on Tuesday that “no one in the NFL, to my knowledge” had seen the video of Rice punching his then-fiancee and now wife, Janay Palmer, in the elevator of an Atlantic City, N.J. casino until Monday, despite requesting it from law enforcement officials.
“We assumed that there was a video,” Goodell told Norah O’Donnell of “CBS This Morning” during his first interview after the shocking video made headlines and led to calls for his resignation. “We asked for video. But we were never granted that opportunity.”
In a letter to NFL team owners sent on Wednesday, Goodell again claimed that the NFL did not see the video until this week.
“First, we did not see video of what took place inside the elevator until it was publicly released on Monday. When the new video evidence became available, we acted promptly and imposed an indefinite suspension on Mr. Rice,” he wrote.
According to the law enforcement official who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, an NFL executive was sent a DVD containing the footage of Rice striking Palmer — now Janay Rice — in the elevator during the February incident. In a 12-second voicemail from April 9, receipt of the footage was confirmed by someone at an NFL office number, reported The Associated Press.
“You’re right. It’s terrible,” a female voice reportedly said in the voicemail.
Rice was arrested in February following the incident at the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City and eventually pleaded not guilty to a third-degree charge of aggravated assault. He avoided standing trial and was accepted into a pre-trial intervention program.
Shortly after the February incident, TMZ released surveillance footage that showed Rice dragging a seemingly unconscious Palmer out of the elevator. The NFL has claimed it had only seen this footage when it punished Rice with a two-game suspension in July. Within hours of TMZ releasing the second video of what occurred inside the elevator on Monday, the Baltimore Ravens terminated Rice’s contract and the NFL announced that his initial two-game suspension had been changed to an indefinite ban.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A law enforcement official says he sent a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee to an NFL executive five months ago, while league executives have insisted they didn’t see the violent images until this week.
The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: “You’re right. It’s terrible.”
The law enforcement official, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, says he had no further communication with any NFL employee and can’t confirm anyone watched the video. The person said he was unauthorized to release the video but shared it unsolicited, because he wanted the NFL to have it before deciding on Rice’s punishment.
The NFL has repeatedly said it asked for but could not obtain the video of Rice hitting Janay Palmer — who is now his wife — at an Atlantic City casino in February.
The league says it has no record of the video, and no one in the league office had seen it until it was released by TMZ Monday. When asked about the voicemail Wednesday, NFL officials repeated their assertion that no league official had seen the video before Monday.
“We have no knowledge of this,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Wednesday. “We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it.”
The person said he sent a DVD copy of the security camera video to an NFL office and included his contact information. He asked the AP not to release the name of the NFL executive, for fear that the information would identify the law enforcement official as the source.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games following the February incident, but the Ravens released Rice on Monday and the NFL suspended him indefinitely after the website TMZ released the video.
Goodell told CBS on Tuesday that “no one in the NFL, to my knowledge” had seen a new video of what happened on the elevator until it was posted online.
“We assumed that there was a video. We asked for video. But we were never granted that opportunity,” Goodell said.
In a memo to the NFL’s 32 teams on Wednesday, Goodell said that the league asked law enforcement for the video, but not the casino. “In the context of a criminal investigation, information obtained outside of law enforcement that has not been tested by prosecutors or by the court system is not necessarily a reliable basis for imposing league discipline,” he wrote.
The video, shown to the AP on Monday, is slightly longer than the TMZ version, and includes some audio.
Rice and Janay Palmer — now Janay Rice — can be heard shouting obscenities at each other, and she appears to spit at Rice right before he throws a brutal punch. After she 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.”
Rice 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. A prominent New Jersey lawmaker called Tuesday for that decision to be reviewed.
Hours after portions of the video were made public by TMZ, Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely and Baltimore terminated his contract. He had originally been suspended for two games, and team officials had praised him for his apologies and actions after his arrest for aggravated assault.
Goodell and team officials said they were taking more severe action because of the violence in the video.