NFL executives were not aware of a security surveillance video taken from an Atlantic City casino which showed former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice punching his then-fiance, according to a report on a long-awaited investigation conducted by former FBI director Robert Mueller.
That conclusion, based on interviews with more than 200 NFL employees and the analysis of millions of documents, seemingly exonerates the NFL — and commissioner Roger Goodell — from accusations that it engaged in a cover-up of the attack, which occurred Feb. 15 in the elevator of Revel Casino. But the report does fault the league for not doing more to obtain information about the beating.
The explosive video — published on Sept. 8 by TMZ — showed Rice punching Palmer and then dragging her limp body out of the Revel Casino elevator.
Based only on verbal testimony and a sit-down with Rice and Palmer — who had married in the intervening months — Goodell suspended the Baltimore Ravens running back for two games.
But video of the heinous assault showed that Goodell and the NFL had underestimated the violence of the attack. As soon as the video was published, the Ravens released Rice, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.
Still worse, the Associated Press reported two days later that a law enforcement source had sent video of the incident to the NFL on April 9, and that a female NFL employee acknowledged — via voice mail — receiving a copy.
The video’s violence paired with the accusation that the NFL may have received the recording — and possibly viewed it — led to widespread calls for Goodell’s ouster amid accusations of a cover-up.
But Mueller’s four-month investigation found no evidence that NFL employees had seen the video before TMZ published it.
Mueller’s team interviewed Goodell, NFL security chief Jeffrey Miller, and over 200 NFL employees — including 188 female employees, contractors, and vendors who entered NFL headquarters on April 9.
Investigators analyzed millions of documents, scoured 400 computers, and placed phone calls to all 938 phone numbers contacted from NFL offices that day, according to the report, which is published at RobertMuellerReport.com.
No female employee said they received a video of the incident from any source. Further, they said they had not even heard rumors of the video’s existence before TMZ aired it.
“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,” Mueller’s report reads.
Analysis of NFL executives’ office phone and cell phone calls — as well as their electronic communications — revealed no evidence of a cover-up either.
“Multiple emails from senior League executives, before and after the video’s public release, are inconsistent with the proposition that those individuals had received or seen the in-elevator video prior to September 8, 2014,” the report reads.
But Mueller’s report does not let Goodell and the NFL completely off the hook.
Mueller concluded that the league should have done a more thorough investigation on its own accord, with or without the video.
“We concluded there was substantial information about the incident – even without the in-elevator video – indicating the need for a more thorough investigation. The NFL should have done more with the information it had, and should have taken additional steps to obtain all available information about the February 15 incident,” the report states.
The league’s investigation consisted mostly of attempting to glean information from the Atlantic City police department and from public sources, the report states.
The league had seen video taken from outside the elevator which showed Rice dragging Palmer. It also had statements from police officers who had seen the video who stated that Rice punched Palmer and rendered her unconscious.
“That information did not provide the graphic detail that the in-elevator video depicted, but it should have put the League on notice that a serious assault had occurred and that it should conduct a more substantial independent investigation,” the report states.
Mueller’s team also found that the NFL did not go far enough to obtain additional information to find out what happened inside the elevator.
“League investigators did not contact any of the police officers who investigated the incident, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, or the Revel to attempt to obtain or view the in-elevator video or to obtain other information. No one from the League asked Rice or his lawyer whether they would make available for viewing the in-elevator video they received as part of criminal discovery in early April. And, after the initial contacts with the Ravens in the immediate aftermath of the incident, League investigators did not follow up with the Ravens to determine whether the team had additional information.”