The NFL has been dogged by the same questions for a couple of days: Did the league ever see video from the actual beating Ray Rice gave his then-fiancée? And, if it didn’t, why not?
Here is another question for Commissioner Roger Goodell and the other executives at the league’s Park Avenue headquarters:
What are you going to do about Ray McDonald?
McDonald has already played in one NFL game this season, and he’s set to be in the starting lineup at defensive tackle when the San Francisco 49ers christen their glistening new stadium in Santa Clara on Sunday.
That would be the same Ray McDonald was arrested over Labor Day weekend on suspicion of domestic abuse against his pregnant fiancée.
Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy is playing too, after he was convicted in July by a North Carolina district judge of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. Hardy exercised his right to a jury trial, likely to take place after the season, so in the meantime he’s a starter for the Panthers.
Quincy Enunwa, a receiver on the New York Jets practice squad, was arrested this month and faces simple-assault charges after an altercation with his girlfriend at a New Jersey hotel.
A league spokesman Tuesday said McDonald’s situation “remains under review” and 49ers Chief Executive Jed York told San Francisco’s KNBR radio he would not punish a player “until we see evidence something should be done or until an entire police investigation shows us something.”
News reports about McDonald’s arrest, citing police reports, said he was taken into custody when his fiancee, who was 10 weeks pregnant, showed officers bruises on her neck and arms.
The NFL said it had enough information on the Rice case in July when Goodell suspended him for two games.
It is apparent now the league didn’t know the full story. On Monday, TMZ released video surveillance footage of Rice knocking Janay Palmer unconscious in an elevator of an Atlantic City hotel and within hours the Baltimore Ravens terminated his contract and the NFL announced an indefinite suspension, meaning no other team could pick him up.
The biggest difference between the Rice and McDonald cases: The alleged assault involving McDonald took place at his home, during a birthday party for him — and no video has emerged.
A cloud of suspicion hangs over the NFL as to when the league first viewed the Rice tape, and whether Goodell turned a blind eye to the evidence he had in giving Rice a lenient original suspension.
There was finger-pointing Tuesday in every direction.
A day after releasing the video, TMZ, citing unnamed former employees of the now-closed Revel Hotel and Casino, said the NFL never asked for a copy of the video shot inside the elevator. The league responded it requested “any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator” from New Jersey state and local authorities but the video was not made available.
Goodell echoed that in a CBS interview Tuesday, saying: “We assumed that there was a video. We asked for video. But we were never granted that opportunity.”
A Los Angeles Times inquiry to the Atlantic City Police about the video was referred to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, whose spokesman declined to comment.
Steve Sweeney, president of the New Jersey state Senate, has called for a review of the decision to let Rice into an intervention program that allowed him, as a first-time offender, to avoid prosecution after he was charged with third-degree assault.
“Mr. Rice received the same treatment by the criminal justice system in Atlantic County that any first-time offender has, in similar circumstances,” spokesman Jay McKeen said. “The decision was correct.”
Janay Rice posted a statement on her Instagram account in which she blamed the media and expressed support for her husband and their marriage:
“I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend,” she wrote. “But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that [the] media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his … off for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific.
“THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is! Ravensnation we love you!”
Sponsors were less forgiving. Nike cut ties with Rice and Electronic Arts announced it was removing his name and image from the Madden ’15 football video game.
As New England did with fans of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, an accused murderer, the Ravens offered fans a chance to exchange their No. 27 Rice jerseys at M&T Bank Stadium stores.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the 49ers’ top executive steadfastly stood by McDonald.
“Each case is its own separate case,” York said. “Ray McDonald is not Ray Rice.”
York spoke confidently, much as Ravens Coach John Harbaugh once spoke about Rice. The Ravens thought they knew him too.