When the NFL moved swiftly to suspend running back Ray Rice indefinitely, many assumed that the league imposed separate discipline on Rice because the league concluded Rice had lied about the incident that occurred in an Atlantic City casino elevator. In an interview with Norah O’Donnell of CBS, however, Commissioner Roger Goodell said nothing about Rice being punished for the equivalent of obstructing justice in an official NFL investigation.
“[W]hat we saw [Monday] was extremely clear, extremely graphic, and it was sickening,” Goodell said. “And that’s why we took the action that we took yesterday.”
But what did Goodell or anyone else expect the video to show? The original criminal complaint accused Rice of “striking [Janay] with his hand, rendering her unconscious.” And that’s what we saw in the video.
If the NFL is going to rely only upon the evidence generated by law enforcement and not by less reliable sources, why didn’t the NFL accept the contents of the criminal complaint from law enforcement as accurate and truthful? Rice struck Janay with his hand and knocked her out. The video showed what we already knew it would show.
So how does the video make the situation any different?
This isn’t about defending Ray Rice. This is about getting to the truth of how the Ravens and the NFL so badly botched and bungled the Rice case. Already, Goodell has admitted that the league got it wrong by suspending Rice for only two games. Now, with the case already closed and the video of Rice striking Janay with his hand and rendering her unconscious finally available to everyone, the thing that he already was punished for merits fresh discipline?
If Rice lied, that changes things. But Goodell had a chance to say Rice lied, and Goodell didn’t. Goodell said that the video was “extremely clear, extremely graphic, and it was sickening.”
What’s not clear, graphic, or sickening about a criminal complaint signed by a police officer that accuses Rice of doing precisely what the video showed him doing?
At a time when many still believe the league saw the video before suspending Rice, the contents of the criminal complaint suggest that maybe the league didn’t need to see the video, after all. The league already was on notice that Rice delivered a one-handed knockout blow to Janay Rice. Why is anyone surprised or shocked by the fact that the video shows a one-handed knockout blow to Janay Rice?
Ultimately, Ray Rice has rights. Already punished once by the league for his actions, he’s now apparently being punished again for those same actions, simply because the visual evidence of the information that already was available to the team and the league looks as bad as they should have expected it to look.