(Yahoo!) The NFL released the report by former FBI director Robert Mueller on Thursday, and the main finding in the investigation was that the league did not have the inside-the-elevator video of the Ray Rice incident before the public saw it on Sept. 8.
The biggest part of the probe centered on an Associated Press report that a female NFL employee left a voicemail acknowledging receipt of the full surveillance video in the Atlantic City hotel and casino where Rice struck his then-fiancee Janay Palmer. The AP report said a law enforcement official sent the video to the NFL offices, and a source played a voicemail from April 9 that came from a phone number at the NFL offices, in which a female voice says the tape was received, expresses thanks and says: "You're right. It's terrible."
The NFL at every step, including just a few hours after the AP story broke, has denied that it saw the video from inside the elevator before TMZ published it.
The report said Mueller's investigators "traced every outgoing phone call from the NFL, and took several other investigative actions that are detailed in the report. The investigators interviewed every female employee, contractor or vendor whose electronic badge recorded that she was in the League’s main office on that day." All 188 women who were known to be in the office that day were asked if they received the video or made a call. The investigation found no evidence the video was received by the NFL. Digital forensics experts also searched computers and mobile phones of the league’s senior executives including commissioner Roger Goodell for evidence of the in-elevator video. The NFL hired Mueller to do what it called an independent investigation.
That's not to say the Mueller Report let the NFL off the hook. It says the league should have had a more thorough investigation based on the evidence it had.
The report scolded the NFL for deference to law enforcement, saying that it “can foster an environment in which it is less important to understand precisely what a player did than to understand how and when the criminal justice system addresses the event.” And, in Rice's specific case it “led to deficiencies in the League’s collection and analysis of information during its investigation.”
The Mueller Report says there was enough evidence for the NFL to dig further into what happened, which it did not. There was a video from outside the elevator showing Rice dragging Palmer's unconscious body out.
"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 press release announcing the report said.
Had the Mueller Report found that the NFL was in possession of the full video well before Sept. 8, that would have looked worse on Goodell than just the admonishment that he and the NFL should have done more to investigate the incident. Because everyone has acknowledged the NFL didn't do enough to look into the incident. The existence of the video, and whether Goodell or any high-ranking official in the league office had seen it before handing Rice a two-game suspension (which was changed to an indefinite suspension once TMZ published the in-elevator video), was a key sticking point throughout the criticism of Goodell and the league. Had Mueller found evidence the NFL had that video and has been denying it ever since, it might have been a blow that Goodell would have a tough time surviving.
Instead, the owners supported Goodell on Thursday afternoon, via a statement by New York Giants president John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II. The joint statement (which points out the AP did not cooperate in the investigation) admits the NFL made an error not having a sufficient policy in place to deal with domestic violence cases, but makes it clear that Goodell still has their trust.
“This matter has tarnished the reputation of the NFL due to our failure to hand out proper punishments," the Rooney/Mara statement read. "It has been a wake-up call to all involved and we expect the changes that have been made will lead to improvements in how any similar issues are handled in the future.
“It is clear to us that Commissioner Goodell was forthright in the statements he made to the owners about this matter, and we have every confidence that Roger Goodell is the right person to lead the league as we move forward.”
The full report can be read at http://robertmuellerreport.com/
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