ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — As questions arose about how the NFL investigated domestic violence allegations against Ray Rice, Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday the league asked for, but was not given, video showing the ex-Ravens running back punching his then-fiancee on an elevator.
Goodell told CBS 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.
Two videos, one released by TMZ Sports and another shown later to The Associated Press by a law enforcement official, show Rice punching Janay Palmer – who is now his wife – at an Atlantic City casino in February. They are graphic, and show more detail than an initial video released by TMZ in July that showed him dragging her from an elevator.
After the latest TMZ video made its way around the Internet, the Ravens cut Rice and the league barred him indefinitely. But the video renewed criticism about the NFL’s decision to initially suspend Rice for just two games, and raised questions about how strenuously the case was investigated.
Goodell has previously said he “didn’t get it right” with Rice and the league set up new penalties for domestic violence: a six-game suspension for a first offense, at least a year for a second.
“I would tell you that what we saw in the first videotape was troubling to us, in and of itself,” Goodell said. “But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear, is extremely graphic, and it was sickening. And that’s why we took the action we took yesterday.”
In the videos that surfaced Monday, Rice and Palmer are seen hitting each other before he knocks her off her feet and into a railing.
The higher-quality video shown to the AP shows Rice made no attempt to cover up what happened. After Palmer collapses, he drags her out of the elevator and is met by some hotel staff. Someone is heard saying, “She’s drunk, right?” And then, “No cops.” Rice didn’t respond.
The video was shown to the AP on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to release it.
Palmer defended her husband on her Instagram account Tuesday, saying that barring Rice from playing football is “horrific” and that making the couple “relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he met with owner Steve Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome after they saw the TMZ video, and they made the decision to let Rice go.
The action represented a complete reversal for the team, which had initially supported Rice. 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.
In a letter to fans, Bisciotti said the team should have done more to get the video as the investigation continued, and it was a “mistake” not to. He said the team tried to get the video from both the casino and law enforcement, but the casino wouldn’t share it and that authorities refused. It is common for law enforcement to decline to release evidence when an investigation is ongoing.
“We should have seen it earlier. We should have pursued our own investigation more vigorously,” the letter said. “We didn’t and we were wrong.”
Rice’s attorney, Michael Diamondstein, declined to comment when contacted by the AP. In a brief telephone interview with ESPN, Rice said: “I have to be strong for my wife. She is so strong. … We are in good spirits. We have a lot of people praying for us and we’ll continue to support each other.”
Rice stood to make $4 million this year. In addition to his salary, he’ll also lose income from canceled endorsement deals. Nike announced it has severed its business ties with him, and video game publisher Electronic Arts said it would scrub Rice’s image from their latest Madden `15 release.
In public statements this summer, he expressed regret: “I let so many people down because of 30 seconds of my life that I know I can’t take back.”
AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this report.