ESPN Just Damned the Baltimore Ravens and NFL, Big-Time
Just a few hours after Roger Goodell’s cringeworthy press conference attempting to address the NFL‘s domestic abuse, discipline and credibility criss, two ESPN reporters published damning story that appears to destroy any credibility the Baltimore Ravens or NFL may have had surrounding their handling of the Ray Rice investigation.
The story by Don Van Natta, Jr., twice a member of Pulitzer Prize winning investigative teams, and Kevin Van Valkenburg, another of ESPN’s best and most-respected reporters, says the Ravens knew the full details of Rice knocking out his then-fiancée in a hotel elevator almost immediately after it happened last February.
The investigation “found a pattern of misinformation and misdirection employed by the Ravens and the NFL since that February night,” Van Natta and Van Valkenburg write. And the way the Ravens tried to spin the story to save Rice’s career — only to throw him under the bus completely once that proved impossible — is particularly irksome.
But don’t take our word for it. Go read ESPN’s full report — it’s long but well worth your time if you’ve been following the NFL’s recent troubles at all. The tick-tock story takes us chronologically through today from the fateful night Rice punched his then-fiancée, now-wife — and goes back even further, to how Rice established himself as pillar of the Ravens franchise and Baltimore community before it all came undone.
Meanwhile, here are some choice snippets from the investigation.
On the NFL’s handling of the case:
For its part, the NFL — which in other player discipline cases has been able to obtain information that’s been sealed by court order — took an uncharacteristically passive approach when it came to gathering evidence, opening itself up to widespread criticism, allegations of inconsistent approaches to player discipline and questions about whether Goodell gave Rice — the corporate face of the Baltimore franchise — a light punishment as a favor to his good friend [Ravens owner Steve] Bisciotti.
On what Ravens officials knew about the contents of the in-elevator video that was released by TMZ this month:
… within hours of the elevator attack, an employee of the Ravens was describing the inside-elevator video to friends in graphic detail, telling confidants that Rice knocked out his then-fiancée with a punch and that the video was “really bad,” according to a source close to a Ravens official.
“I was told, ‘It has to get better for Ray Rice, or he’s going to get cut,’ ” the source said.
On Ravens coach John Harbaugh’s reported request to cut Rice days after the incident in February and how that was received by management:
… after Ravens offensive lineman Jah Reid was arrested March 8 in Key West, Florida, and charged with two counts of battery for his role in a bar fight, Harbaugh, according to several sources, again went to [general manager Ozzie] Newsome and advocated that the three Ravens players arrested in the offseason — Rice, Reid and wide receiver Deonte Thompson — be released. Newsome, according to what Rice was told, bristled at the recommendation, saying he was the decision-maker in the matter, not Harbaugh, and he believed in second chances. Newsome believed if the team had weathered the controversy in 2000 when All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis was charged in a double homicide after a Super Bowl party in Atlanta, and had endured the criticism after running back Jamal Lewis’ guilty plea to cocaine trafficking in 2004, it could certainly weather the controversy surrounding this trio of arrests, too.
On how the Ravens stood by Rice until the inside-elevator video was leaked Sept. 8, then promptly cut him loose and said he’d mislead investigators about what happened in February:
Bisciotti and the team released a letter to Ravens season-ticket holders contending that the team had not seen the video until the morning of Sept. 8, when TMZ released it to the public, and that they found it “violent and horrifying” and had voted unanimously to release Rice. Bisciotti also stated that the team would be donating $600,000 to the House of Ruth, the Baltimore shelter for battered women. Rice and his friends read the letter with barely concealed contempt and disgust. “I think a lot of people were quick to say ‘Oh what a stand-up guy,'” [Rice’s close friend Kyle] Jakobe said. “I think if you look at it objectively, it’s a massive cover-up attempt.”
Minutes later, Rice’s phone buzzed. He could scarcely believe what he was looking at— back-to-back text messages from Bisciotti.
We’ve left the most damning parts out so, again, go read the full report. This is the investigation and article NFL executives have likely been fearing since February. By the looks of it, it’s pretty easy to hypothesize heads are going to roll within both the NFL and the Ravens — the only questions seem to be whose and when.