Questions Remain After Mueller Report On NFL's Handling Of Rice Case

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Former FBI Director Robert Mueller released his report on the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice case on Thursday. The 96-page document supports the league’s claim that no one with the NFL – including Commissioner Roger Goodell – had seen the video from inside the casino elevator where Rice assaulted his then-fiance last year. The video was eventually made public by the website TMZ.

In a column titled “They Should Have Known Better,” Slate Senior Editor Jeremy Stahl argues that the investigation misses the bigger picture. Stahl joined Bill Littlefield on Only A Game.

BL: Let’s start with what Robert Mueller did uncover. Which findings stand out to you?

JS: So, the main thing that the executive summary of the Mueller report focused on was this question of whether or not the league had access to a second video tape from inside the elevator of the Revel Casino that showed, really, how horrific the attack on Janay Palmer was. It also looked at the extent to which the league should have known to investigate this further than they did. It finds they didn't have access to the tape, but they should have been able to gain access to the tape if they had wanted to.

BL: You wrote that the report ignores “the extent to which Goodell and the league willfully tried not to discover any additional information about the assault in the hopes of protecting a star player and favored franchise.” Is that something we’ll ever find out?

[sidebar title="Past Meets Present In Manning Vs. Luck Matchup" width="630" align="right"]We examine the NFL playoff showdown (and personal connections) between Denver's Peyton Manning and the quarterback who replaced him in Indianapolis: Andrew Luck.[/sidebar]JS: I don't think we're going to see another investigation. Don Van Natta [Jr.] has done some excellent reporting for ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that looked into this question, and what he found was that the Ravens lobbied extensively to the NFL for a two-game suspension, which was what initially was handed down to Ray Rice.

The Mueller report confirms one of the main findings of that 'Outside the Lines' reporting which was that Ravens officials knew what the inside-the-elevator video showed. A security official for the team had communication with an Atlantic City police officer who told him what was on that video. The league didn't follow up with the Ravens to find out what they knew and the Ravens didn't volunteer that information.

BL: The video of Rice dragging Janay Palmer, who was unconscious, out of the elevator was made public much earlier than the footage of his punch. Should the hallway video have triggered an earlier, more in-depth investigation by the NFL?

JS: That's absolutely true and that is one of the stronger findings of the Mueller report: that once they had seen this outside-the-elevator video, which showed an unconscious Janay Palmer being dragged by Ray Rice, they should have known how serious this incident was and should have known to investigate further than they did.

BL: Jeremy, it’s worth noting that for all of the attention given to the Rice case, and the child-abuse case against Adrian Peterson, there’s no evidence to suggest that the NFL’s popularity has been affected at all. Does any of this have a real impact on Roger Goodell’s future with the NFL?

JS:  Roger Goodell's future as commissioner of the NFL seems highly dependent on the NFL's ability to make money and the league owners' support of him rests completely on that. And in that regard, he has not been damaged this year.

This segment aired on January 10, 2015.


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