Why didn't Ravens, NFL get Ray Rice video first?

Case leaves questions about response to domestic violence

September 08, 2014|Dan Rodricks

How is it that TMZ, the celebrity gossip website, got its hands on the Ray Rice assault video before the National Football League did? Does TMZ pay more? Maybe so. But maybe the answer is even simpler than that, lying within the nature of each entity: The NFL wanted this disturbing story of domestic violence by one of its most popular players to go away, and TMZ did not.

The NFL wanted to get past the Rice episode — an assault on a woman by a brawny, young running back — as quickly as possible. Dwelling on it, replaying the facts and the video, only served to underscore the troubling connection between football and physical violence that simmers in the public conscience.

And what of the Ravens?

Did the owner, Steve Bisciotti, and his staff push to get the video? Did they want to know, fully, what their star running back had done to his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, in the Revel casino elevator last February? Did the team assign an investigator to the case?

Most people, most organizations and most companies want the bad stuff to go away as quickly as possible. That's human nature. We're all eager for quick resolutions, especially when a problem threatens livelihood or reputation — and when it involves someone who, like Rice, was well-liked.

It's understandable that the NFL and the Ravens wanted the Rice episode to end with the resolution of the New Jersey assault charge — he was placed in a pretrial intervention program that allowed him to avoid jail time — and his acceptance of a two-game suspension and forfeiture of wages.

Rice had always been a beloved player in Baltimore, and there was hope that he'd bounce back from this mess. Ravens fans already had given him a standing ovation during a preseason game.

But that desire for quick resolution often conflicts with clear thinking and with facing problems in a big, transparent way that convinces everyone — in this case, the American public that supports the NFL with hundreds of millions of dollars — you've dealt with your problems honestly.

Which is why the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, looked foolish after giving Rice that pathetic two-game suspension, and why Goodell later had to concede that he "didn't get it right."

And it's probably why the new video surfaced Monday. Had the NFL and the Ravens taken a bigger, tougher action against Rice in the first place — had they not waited for Monday's video — they would not have looked so old-school with regard to domestic violence. They would not have had to play catch-up on the problem, with the league announcing new disciplinary standards and the team quickly forming a partnership with the House of Ruth.

The Ravens and Goodell were either obtuse or oblivious, take your pick.

Let's be clear about something: After seeing the original TMZ video, the one in which Rice dragged an unconscious Palmer through the elevator door, it was safe to assume that he had slugged her.

The video might not have convinced a jury beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

But come on. In the court of public opinion — which is the one the NFL, the Ravens and their commercial sponsors care about — it was pretty clear to most of us. We did not need a confirming video.

Still, a question lingered, at least in the minds of Ravens fans who wanted to give Rice the benefit of the doubt. I heard people — men and women both — speculate that Palmer had goaded Rice into a rage: You know, they said, maybe she had asked to be knocked unconscious by her 212-pound fiance.

But seeing the latest video, with Rice delivering a left to Palmer's head, it was pretty clear that No. 27 did not deserve the benefit of anything besides a lawyer.

I flinched at the video, and at the thought of being on the receiving end of a Rice left cross. "I got my max bench press up to 400 lbs, and I can squat around 500," he told Muscle & Body last year. The magazine featured a photo of the sinewy Rice doing a bent-over row with a hefty dumbbell.

Where did this video come from?

Did someone find it in the abandoned security-camera room in the now-closed Revel in Atlantic City? You mean to tell me it wasn't available after the first video surfaced? You mean to tell me the NFL, which prides itself on thorough investigations of alleged violations of league policy, didn't catch this?

Monday, a spokesman for the league said: "We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today."

The questions remain: How hard did the league push to get it? What did the Ravens and the NFL know and when did they know it?

And did they really need TMZ to help them decide that Rice was a batterer who needed to be gone?

Apparently so.

drodricks@baltsun.com

Dan Rodricks' column appears each Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He is the host of "Midday" on WYPR-FM

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