By George E. Curry
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has finally emerged from his self-imposed witness protection program, held a press conference, and even attended a football game Sunday. Now that Goodell has come out of hiding, it is not clear that the NFL is any closer to getting it right, as he keeps putting it, than it was when it dropped the ball in handling Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension from the league.
Goodell’s long overdue news conference proved only that he had his talking points down and would repeat them at every opportunity.
- “I’m not satisfied with the way we’ve handled it from the get-go. As I told you, and this statement indicates, I made a mistake…”
- “We acknowledge the mistake, my mistake. And we said we’re going to do better moving forward …”
- “I let myself down. I let everybody else down. And for that I’m sorry as I mentioned earlier. That’s what we’re going to correct and that’s what we’re going to fix…”
Despite a well-scripted news conference, the NFL has not been able to contain some extremely damaging disclosures. ESPN “Outside the Lines” has produced an explosive exposé that undercuts Goodell’s credibility, the very thing he has desperately been trying to restore.
Publicly, Goodell has contended that no one in the NFL’s Park Avenue headquarters in New York has seen the devastating video of Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancée out with a powerful left hook, leaving her unconscious. Even if true, that does not mean Baltimore and NFL officials did not know what was on the video tape.
Here’s what ESPN had to say: “Ultimately, on April 1, the Revel, under subpoena, provided [Attorney Michael] Diamondstein with a copy, and he received the same copy from prosecutors on April 5. By phone, Diamondstein told [team president Dick] Cass that the video was ‘f—ing horrible’ and that it was clear ‘Ray knocked her the f— out.’ The lawyer advised Cass that the video, if released, would amount to a public relations disaster for the Ravens and for his client.
“Cass listened carefully but never asked Diamondstein to provide the Ravens with a copy of the video — nor, for that matter, did anyone from the NFL ask Diamondstein for a copy, several sources say.”
Cass and owner Steve Bisciotti claimed they never knew the extent of Rice’s violence.
ESPN reported, “Bisciotti and Cass contend that, after the elevator doors closed that morning, they did not have a full picture of what happened until September. ‘It was our understanding based on Ray’s account that in the course of a physical altercation between the two of them he slapped Janay with an open hand, and that she hit her head against the elevator rail or wall as she fell to the ground,’ the Ravens said in a statement Friday afternoon. But sources both affiliated and unaffiliated with the team tell ‘Outside the Lines’ a different story: The Ravens’ head of security, Sanders, heard a detailed description of the inside-elevator scene within hours and shared it with Ravens officials in Baltimore.”
Quoting multiple unnamed sources close to Rice, ESPN said the star running back had provided full details of the incident – including knocking his future wife unconscious – to both Goodell and team officials.
In fact, ESPN said, “With his wife sitting by his side in a conference room, Rice told Goodell that he hit her and knocked her out, according to four sources.”
At the urging of the Ravens, Goodell suspended Rice for only two games. Later, under mounting pressure from women’s groups, the Ravens kicked Rice off the team and Goodell suspended him indefinitely from the NFL.
“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,” ESPN reported.
“…Minutes later, Rice’s phone buzzed. He could scarcely believe what he was looking at– back-to-back text messages from Bisciotti. Rice read them aloud so everyone in the room could hear them:
Hey Ray, just want to let you know, we loved you as a player, it was great having you here. Hopefully all these things are going to die down. I wish the best for you and Janay.
When you’re done with football, I’d like you to know you have a job waiting for you with the Ravens helping young guys getting acclimated to the league.
ESPN continued, “Rice was flabbergasted. One minute Bisciotti and the Ravens were essentially calling him a liar, the next Bisciotti was quietly offering him a job.
“’… Rice told friends he believed Bisciotti was suggesting that, as long as he kept quiet and stuck to the story that he had misled team officials and Goodell about what had happened in the elevator, the Ravens would take care of him down the road. He felt incredibly insulted.”
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.