An investigation by former FBI Director Robert Mueller found “no evidence” the NFL obtained or viewed surveillance video of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in February before the clip became public in September.
Mueller’s 96-page report, commissioned by the NFL and released Thursday, criticized the league’s approach to the Rice incident, one that created a firestorm of controversy around Commissioner Roger Goodell and raised questions about the league’s response to domestic violence.
“We concluded that there was substantial information about the incident … indicating the need for more thorough investigation,” the 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 Feb. 15 incident.”
The NFL’s investigation of Rice’s punch, the report said, consisted mainly of efforts to obtain records from the Atlantic City Police Department and updates on the situation from public sources. The league didn’t try to obtain the video from Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J., where the incident occurred, or ask Rice and his attorney whether they would allow viewing of their copy.
The Associated Press reported in September a law enforcement source disclosed a DVD with the video of Rice’s punch was mailed to NFL headquarters in New York in April.
“We found no evidence that the in-elevator video was or had been stored or viewed on a league computer prior to the video’s public release,” the report said.
The report noted an examination of records from the league’s mailroom failed to turn up any trace of a package being received similar to the one described in the Associated Press story.
“We have reviewed the report and stand by our original reporting,” AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll said in a statement.
Rice was originally suspended for two games by the NFL in July for knocking out his future wife, Janay Palmer, in an elevator at the casino. Video footage showed him dragging her limp body into a hallway and standing over her. But when a second, more graphic video of Rice striking his fiancee was made public, the Ravens released Rice and the league suspended him indefinitely. The indefinite suspension was later overturned, though no team has signed Rice.
In a statement, New York Giants President John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney, who oversaw the investigation, reiterated their support for Goodell.
“We have every confidence that Roger Goodell is the right person to lead the league as we move forward,” the statement said.
Mara and Rooney also said the Rice matter has “tarnished the reputation of the NFL” and is a “wake-up call to all involved.”
In September, the NFL asked Mueller to examine its response to the Rice incident. The investigation included interviewing more than 200 NFL employees, searching “millions of documents, emails and text messages” and examining about 400 computers connected to the league’s network. An anonymous tip line created by the investigators for use by league employees didn’t generate a single call.
Mueller’s report recommended the NFL better train its investigators, create a special team to look into cases of domestic violence or sexual abuse, and enact policies to share more information among clubs and the league during such inquires.
“Our findings demonstrate the weaknesses inherent in the league’s long-standing practice of deferring to the criminal justice system,” the report said.