The NFL hired former FBI Director, Robert Mueller, to investigate what happened within the NFL such that the league botched the handling of the “Ray Rice Affair” so badly. That was about 4 months ago which seems to me to have been a supremely protracted length of time. Finally, The Mueller Report is finished and delivered.
Please recall when this story was fresh, I said that if Roger Goodell was telling the truth about never having seen or known about the “inside the elevator video” of the “Ray Rice Affair”, then the folks in charge of NFL Security and whoever was in charge of this specific investigative task needed to be fired immediately. According to The Mueller Report:
“We found no evidence that anyone at the NFL had or saw the in-elevator video before it was publicly shown. We also found no evidence that a woman at the NFL acknowledged receipt of that video in a voicemail message on April 9, 2014.”
Let me deconstruct that statement for a moment and assume that what it says is true because indeed no one at the NFL did have or did see the in-elevator video prior to TMZ springing it on the public consciousness.
1. NFL Security – by reputation a paragon in its field – has more than just feet of clay. The reason no one in the NFL had or saw the in-elevator video is because the folks in NFL Security did not figure out how to get it. TMZ figured that out so it probably was not exactly equivalent to untying the Gordian Knot.
2. There were stories of a reporter – or reporters, I really do not recall if it was singular or plural – hearing a voicemail message from a female who called from an NFL telephone number saying that they had received said video. If The Mueller Report is accurate, someone went to elaborate means to concoct a forgery of a message. The reporter(s) for that story need now to come forth to demonstrate the level of veracity of their report based on the credibility of their source(s). If this was a hoax, it was an elaborate one indeed.
The above deconstruction focuses specifically on the quotation taken from The Mueller Report. No one should generalize from my comments here to assume that I find Roger Goodell or any other NFL employees exonerated by the findings. In fact, no report can possibly be written by anyone on the planet that might explain away the following logic chain:
Originally we all saw a video of an elevator door opening and Ray Rice standing over the unconscious body of a woman later identified as his then-fiancée with no other folks exiting the elevator. Immediately, I concluded one of three situations obtained:
1. She was conscious getting on the elevator and passed out during the descent to the ground floor.
2. She was conscious getting on the elevator and he rendered her unconscious during the descent to the ground floor.
3. She was unconscious prior to getting on the elevator meaning she had been dragged/carried onto the elevator in that state and some kind of investigation as to how she found herself in that circumstance needed to be done.
It turns out that #2 is indeed the case now that we have seen the in-elevator video…
However, if someone with even a meager background in investigations at NFL Security saw only what I saw, the implications presented by #2 and #3 above would have to have sparked a sense of awareness that this situation might just turn out to be a steaming pile of equine ordure. Now, with that heightened sense of potential “problems” I would think that a trained, focused and savvy investigator would have made sure that the full expertise of the elite investigative unit that is NFL Security was brought to bear on this matter. Evidently, not…
Not only did the first person in NFL Security to run across the original reports seemingly shrug his shoulders and move on to the next issue; it would also seem that as the first few days of the awareness of Janay Palmer Rice exiting that elevator in a comatose state no one else in NFL Security or anyone else in a position of influence in the NFL thought this was any kind of big deal. They did not have much in front of them – other than a completely unconscious woman in the company of an NFL player – but they did not throw it into high gear to find out what had happened here.
The Mueller Report says that the NFL knew a little something soon after the outside video had hit the streets. The NFL had a copy of the summons written by the local police and that summons report said that Ray Rice had struck Janay Palmer with his hand and that led to her unconscious state. Still, no one at 345 Park Ave in NYC screamed something akin to:
“Holy domestic abuse, Batman, this could become a PR nightmare!!”
Not only did everyone in NFL HQs go about their business and ignore what everyone else saw, the league and the security folks who nominally keep the league safe from all manner of evil-doers did not do any of the following:
Contact the local police who wrote that summons report
Contact the local prosecutor’s office who might be handling this matter
Contact the casino security folks who might have more info
Moreover, as time passed and as the local prosecutor was contemplating some kind of action against Ray Rice, Rice’s attorneys were given copies of the in-elevator video as part of the discovery proceedings. Seemingly, the league did not know that ever happened and it never asked either Rice or his attorneys anything about the existence of an in-elevator video let alone to see a copy of the video they had in their possession.
OK, so Rice and his attorneys could have stonewalled the league and conjured up reasons to keep that information from the league as a way to protect Rice’s future economic interests. However, The Mueller Report says that the Baltimore Ravens had been in contact with the local authorities and the Ravens were given:
“…a detailed description of the in-elevator video [by a local police official]… The Ravens did not volunteer that information to the league.”
Well, of course the Ravens did not divulge that information to the NFL. Ray Rice was the #1 RB on their depth chart and Roger Goodell was/is the league’s “Disciplinarian-in-Chief”; it was in the best interests of the Ravens’ brass to keep this under wraps as much as possible. But according to The Mueller Report, the NFL was less than dogged in asking the Ravens what all they might know about the incident.
What the NFL did was to conduct an investigation that you would praise if you called it “junior varsity”. I said this before and I will repeat it here:
Heads must roll in NFL Security and heads must roll in any and all departments tangentially related to the incident where no one questioned the lack of information and insight coming from NFL Security.
What seems clear to me now is that someone – or some ones – along mahogany row in the NFL decided early on that the NFL did not want to know exactly what happened in that elevator and so there would be no impetus given to the folks in NFL Security to get to the bottom of this mess. If The Mueller Report is correct in saying that the NFL never had or saw that in-elevator video, it almost certainly has to be the case that the NFL never really wanted to see it and therefore never expended much effort to get it.
And speaking of not expending a lot of effort to get hold of some critical information, I can find no reference to any of the investigators involved in The Mueller Report busting their butts trying to get information from the guy who claims he sent that copy of the in-elevator video to the NFL. If the investigators can find no record of it ever reaching the NFL by examining the NFL’s records, would not a prudent next step be to find the guy who says he sent it to the NFL and report on what he has to say?
The Mueller Report as I read it does not exonerate Roger Goodell in this matter except to confirm his assertion that at the time he issued the 2-game suspension to Ray Rice for the Atlantic City assault, he had not seen the in-elevator video. The problem is that he had ample opportunity to have had more information at his disposal – to include the in-elevator video – if the folks who work for him had done their jobs efficiently and effectively. They did not and when that happens some of the fault for that nonfeasance has to reside with the guy in charge.
Roger Goodell has said more than once that the league made mistakes in its investigation of the Ray Rice Affair. The Mueller Report confirms that statement in spades. The question for the NFL now seems to take the league on two different paths:
1. The league moves on to another Commissioner and the new guy/gal domes in with a mandate to change the foundations of NFL Security and to give it an entirely new structure, charge and leadership.
2. The league sticks with Roger Goodell – mainly based on his demonstrated ability to increase league revenues for the owners and secondarily for the players – but it forces him to make significant personnel changes both in NFL Security and along NFL mahogany row.
Make no mistake; if major changes in personnel and in the way things are reported and tasked within the NFL do not happen as a result of The Mueller Report, this is going to happen again. If the Ray Rice Affair was uncomfortable and smarmy, it will look like a glimpse of Nirvana once the next issue of this kind breaks if the NFL reacts in the same way.
Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had this terse but cogent summation of The Mueller Report and the events surrounding it:
“See no evil: To no one’s surprise, an independent investigator says there is no evidence that the NFL saw the elevator video of Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancée. I guess there’s no way to prove the NFL didn’t want to see it.”
In addition, here is how Greg Cote of the Miami Herald summarized The Mueller Report:
“An independent investigation found NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was not aware of the Ray Rice video when meting out his initial punishment. Which sort of means Goodell was both exonerated and called incompetent at the same time.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………