Roger Goodell lied. A report released on Thursday by former FBI director Robert Mueller, who was hired as an independent investigator into the NFL's handling of the Ray Rice investigation, does little to dispel the notion that Goodell creatively avoided telling the truth about his knowledge that Rice knocked his partner, Janay Palmer, unconscious in a casino elevator in February. Mueller's findings corroborate the NFL commissioner's claims that he did not see security footage of the altercation before it was made available to the public -- but they do not absolve him of his incompetence in handling the case.
The report, which set out to determine whether the NFL did or did not receive in-elevator footage of the Rice incident as an Associated Press report indicated, finds that while there is no evidence that league officials saw the footage before it was released on TMZ, their claims of attempting to access the footage are bogus:
League investigators did not contact any of the police officers who investigated the incident, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, or the Revel to attempt to obtain or view the in-elevator video or to obtain other information. No one from the League asked Rice or his lawyer whether they would make available for viewing the in-elevator video they received as part of criminal discovery in early April. And, after the initial contacts with the Ravens in the immediate aftermath of the incident, League investigators did not follow up with the Ravens to determine whether the team had additional information.
So it seems league officials didn't see the tape...because they didn't try to see the tape? Makes sense -- about as much sense as Mueller's conclusion, which is that the entire mess means the NFL should have more power in doling out discipline for players' criminal behavior:
Our findings demonstrate the weaknesses inherent in the League's longstanding practice of deferring to the criminal justice system with respect to the investigation of facts and the imposition of discipline under the Personal Conduct Policy. Discipline should be imposed on the basis of the specific nature of the player's conduct, not solely or necessarily on the disposition of a criminal case. The League has begun to address this fundamental issue in its revised Personal Conduct Policy, announced on December 10, 2014.
An unfortunate reality is that Mueller has something of a point: deferring to the criminal justice system doesn't always result in adequate or appropriate measures being taken, because the criminal justice system is marred by its own institutional failures. But that point gets lost in light of Mueller's other findings. If the NFL hadn't proven itself to act solely in its own best interests, which in this case meant conducting a shamelessly inept "investigation" and punishing for the sake of the league's public image, then maybe we could pretend it's an institution that is equipped to offer additional discipline. But that's not the case -- and it probably never will be.