The wife of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice denied claims by the NFL and its commissioner that her husband was vague when he told them details about an incident in an elevator that ended with Rice’s suspension, and suggested they only argued that to protect their own reputations.
In an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Matt Lauer, Janay Rice said her husband was honest to the league about what happened the night Rice punched her in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino. When asked whether she thought NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league "covered their butts" when they later claimed Rice was "ambiguous," Janay Rice replied, "I think they did what they had to do for themselves."
For most of the interview, which will be aired on TODAY Monday and Tuesday, Janay Rice was mostly very complimentary of Goodell’s dealings with her and her husband. But she also said that her husband “told the honest truth” about what happened from the beginning.
"I feel like if they wanted to know more details then they would have asked. But there were no further questions. It's been consistent with everything that he's been saying since February," Janay Rice told Lauer.
When Lauer asked whether Goodell was lying when he claimed Rice was ambiguous — and thus eligible to be hit with a second, indefinite suspension — Janay Rice replied, “I can't say he's telling the truth … I know for a fact that Ray told the honest truth that he’s been telling from February.”
Goodell initially suspended Rice two games for the elevator incident, and then punished him again with an indefinite suspension after graphic video showing the punch in a casino elevator was made public and evoked widespread public outcry.
Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones, acting as an arbitrator in the case, found Friday that Rice did not lie to Goodell or the NFL about the incident, and that the indefinite suspension was an abuse of discretion and that Rice was punished twice for the same incident. Jones vacated the indefinite suspension, clearing Rice to play in the NFL.
Juliet Macur, a sports columnist for the New York Times, criticized Goodell’s handling of the crisis but doesn’t think he’ll be fired. “He basically looks like he doesn’t know what he’s doing right now, and if it had been a public company, he’d probably be fired, but of course he’s running the NFL which makes a ton of money,” Macur told NBC News. “So I don’t think he’s going to be going anywhere anytime soon.”
The Ravens terminated Rice’s contract, and it is unclear whether another team would be willing to sign Rice. Macur said that some teams might be desperate enough to look at Rice, but “I think it would be a broad public disaster.”
After Friday’s decision, Rice said in a statement that "I made an inexcusable mistake and accept full responsibility for my actions … I will continue working hard to improve myself and be the best husband, father and friend, while giving back to my community and helping others to learn from my mistakes."
Some current and former NFL players agreed with the decision to overturn Rice’s indefinite suspension, but not all supported the player himself. Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith and former Raven Bryant McKinnie tweeted their support.
Former linebacker Scott Fujita said on Twitter Friday that, "Yes, Judge Jones made the right decision. Yes, Ray Rice deserves a 2nd chance. And no, I won’t lose a bit of sleep if he never plays again."