The NFL should have conducted a more thorough investigation of Ray Rice’s assault of his fiancee in an Atlantic City casino elevator, the former head of the FBI said Thursday in a long-awaited report.
But the report said it found no evidence that the league saw a damning security video of the attack before it was leaked to the public in September.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller laid out his findings in a report released online.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell first suspended Rice two for games, then suspended him indefinitely after the video showing Rice's cold-cocking of Janay Palmer was leaked. Goodell said he had not seen the clip before it became public. Rice, a former star running back for the Baltimore Ravens, appealed, and an arbitrator reinstated him.
Goodell appointed Mueller to investigate as the NFL was consumed by a furor over the Rice matter and other domestic-violence cases.
The report also said Mueller’s investigators found no evidence that any NFL executive had received a copy of the video in April, as alleged to the Associated Press by an unnamed law enforcement official.
"We concluded there was substantial information about the incident — even without the in-elevator video—indicating the need for a more thorough investigation,” Mueller’s report said. “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."
Goodell responded with a statement in which he proclaimed the case closed and said he was committed to improvign the way the NFL investigates allegations of domestic violence. "We have all learned a great deal in the past months and expect to be judged by how we lead going forward on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault," Goodell said.
Mueller said he and his investigators reviewed "millions of documents, emails, text messages and electronic data logs" and interviewed more than 200 NFL employees and contractors. Digital forensic experts searched the computers and cell phones of top league executives, including Goodell.
While they did not find evidence that the league had prior knowledge of the video, they did find several shortcomings, including a chronic "deference to law enforcement" that undercut the internal probe. If the league had dug deeper early on, "it may have uncovered additional information about the incident, possibly including the in-elevator video prior to its public release," the report said.
New York Giants President John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II released a joint statement on behalf of the owners of all 32 NFL franchises in which they called the case a "wake-up call" that has already sparked reform. They also voiced full support of Goodell. “We have every confidence that Roger Goodell is the right person to lead the league as we move forward,” Mara and Rooney said.
Ravens president Dick Cass, meanwhile, said the report "reminds us all of the gravity of the consequences of intimate partner abuse and the lessons we must all learn."
The National Organization for Women reacted with outrage, saying Mueller's investigation was limited to questions that did not hold Goodell, or the league, accountable enough. "This non-report report is yet another reason why NOW continues to demand for new, competent leadership at the NFL," NOW president Terry O'Neill said in a statement.