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NFL investigates how it handled Ray Rice case

The National Football League announced an investigation led by former FBI director Robert Mueller amid new questions about when league officials first saw images of Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancee. Hari Sreenivasan talks to Kavitha Davidson of Bloomberg View about the investigation, whether commissioner Roger Goodell will keep his job and the prevalence of domestic violence incidents in the NFL.

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  • Editor’s Note:

    This video has been edited from its broadcast version due to footage restrictions.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The NFL is under new pressure over its handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal, including calls for the ouster of commissioner Roger Goodell. But the people who own and run the teams are so far taking a different tack.

    Hari Sreenivasan has more from our New York studios.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    As the Ray Rice case cast a growing shadow, the NFL last night called in former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate its handling of the situation.

    The announcement came amid new questions about when league officials first saw images made public this week by TMZ Sports of Rice knocking out his then-fiancee last February. The Associated Press reported an unnamed law enforcement officer sent the video to the NFL in April. In a voice-mail at the time, a woman at a league office confirmed the video arrived and then said: "You're right. It's terrible."

    Earlier Wednesday, on CBS News, commissioner Roger Goodell had again maintained the NFL never saw the video before Monday, when it became public.

  • ROGER GOODELL, Commissioner, National Football League:

    We were not granted that. We were told that that wasn't something we would have access to. On multiple occasions, we asked for it. And on multiple occasions, we were told no.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    But Goodell's statements, and his overall handling of the Rice matter, raised concerns yesterday even among some players around the league.

  • CARY WILLIAMS, Cornerback, Philadelphia Eagles:

    It could have been a better job done, because if TMZ can get it, why couldn't the National Football League get it? And for them to say, we would be satisfied with a no from the — whoever they got it from, it's kind of shocking.

  • DREW BREES, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints:

    We're all held accountable for our actions as players. Certainly, every owner should be held accountable for their actions. Every — the commissioner should be held accountable for his actions.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    In addition, the National Organization for Women called Wednesday for Goodell to resign. And, today, 16 female senators urged the NFL to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on domestic violence.

    Rice is now out of the league indefinitely, and Goodell's fate may rest on the NFL's newly announced probe. It will be overseen by Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney and New York Giants president John Mara. Up to now, at least, they have been among Goodell's strongest supporters.

    For more context on the latest developments and the league's position, we're joined by Kavitha Davidson, who writes about sports for Bloomberg View.

    So, how big of a situation has this become? What kind of pressure is Roger Goodell under?

  • KAVITHA DAVIDSON, Bloomberg View:

    He's on shakier ground as the days progress, frankly.

    If you had asked me this question on Monday, I would probably have told you that his job is completely safe and nothing can really topple the most powerful man in sports. I still kind of hold that belief, frankly, just because he makes so much money for these owners, who wield so much power.

    But every day, with every new revelation, with every new instance of this cover-up being made public, his job gets more and more in jeopardy.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, Robert Mueller being brought into investigate, so how independent is this investigation?

  • KAVITHA DAVIDSON:

    I think that independence is in the eye of the beholder in this case.

    Robert Mueller, very respected, former FBI director, served under two different presidents, two different parties. At the same time, the law firm that he works for negotiated the NFL's television deal with DirecTV. Take from that what you will.

    And in addition to that, this independent investigation is going to be overseen by Giants' owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers' owner Art Rooney, who are two of not only the most respected owners in the game, but two of the most publicly visible. So I don't think you could really call this purely independent.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And — but what kind of money is at stake here for these owners, and what kind of money have they made under the leadership of Roger Goodell?

  • KAVITHA DAVIDSON:

    Roger Goodell has been very good to these owners in the last eight years.

    Last year, I believe the NFL brought in $9 billion in revenue. Goodell has made it a goal to bring that number up to about $25 billion. So these owners really don't have any impetus to oust him on any level. And neither do the advertisers, frankly, either. And that's a really unfortunate thing.

    The CEO of Verizon came out today standing by Roger Goodell, saying he's man of great integrity. So, really, the dollar kind of flows when it comes to what we consider integrity.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    What are the possibilities when the NFL says that it didn't have the video?

  • KAVITHA DAVIDSON:

    So, you really have two black-and-white areas and then one kind of gray area. You have the NFL absolutely didn't receive the video. And I think that we have established with evidence and with the phone call that the Associated Press reported that some video was — the video was sent to the NFL office.

    The other side is, the NFL saw the video and still came down with a two-game suspension. And I think that we don't really want to believe that that's possible, just having seen the video and having seen the brutality that's on that video, that it's possible somebody could watch that and think two games is totally apt for that kind of a crime.

    The middle ground there is, the NFL wanted to maintain some kind of, shall we say, plausible deniability, that it was received, but there was either willful or unwillful ignorance, a concerted effort not to have the higher-ups, including Goodell perhaps, actually view this video, so that they could come out and say they had not seen it until Monday.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And is he actually under risk with whatever the results of the investigation are? A bunch of owners, not just a few, have to vote to get him out. And you said that they have a big financial interest in supporting him right now.

  • KAVITHA DAVIDSON:

    I believe it's 24 of the 32 owners need to vote in favor of that. And I, frankly, don't see that happening, even with all that we know now.

    And I also, frankly, don't know if that would solve anything. These are systematic, institutional issues that the NFL has. Goodell has overseen 56 domestic violence cases since he's taken over as commissioner, and they have resulted in 13 total games of suspension.

    So the NFL doesn't take this issue seriously. And, frankly, it would take a lot more than just Roger Goodell falling on the sword or falling on the shield, if you will, to actually institute some kind of systematic change here.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, the NFL says, you know, we actually have a lower number of arrests or convictions of our players than the general population.

  • KAVITHA DAVIDSON:

    Well, that is true. And I think that, if anything, this issues gives us an opportunity to discuss not just the NFL's failings in protecting domestic violence victims, but our country's real problem with how we prosecute these individuals and how we deal with these kinds of victims.

    The problem with that logic is that, while the NFL does actually have a lower rate of domestic violence incidents, they don't prosecute and they punish as much as the country does. I think 50 percent of charges that actually go to trial result in convictions in the United States, whereas, as I said, 13 total games suspended for 56 different violations.

    It's a pretty terrible record when it comes to discipline.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And Ray Rice's spotlight has also shined the light on — there's another player from the Carolina Panthers who was convicted by a judge of domestic violence, but he's suiting up on Sunday.

  • KAVITHA DAVIDSON:

    It's not — yes, it's Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald on the 49ers.

    The league comes out and says all kinds of things. The league instituted a new domestic violence policy two weeks ago that actually very much excited many of us that seemed to be the first step in the league actually taking this issue seriously. And yet we see these potential offenders, in Greg Hardy's case, this convicted offender, still suiting up and still stepping on the field on Sunday.

    So you can see just how seriously the NFL is taking this.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So what are the NFL players saying about this? Have they come down in support of or in criticism of Roger Goodell in the last couple days?

  • KAVITHA DAVIDSON:

    So, it has been very encouraging to see that in the last few days the players have been on the right side of this issue. They have been very vocal in either their disappointment in Ray Rice as a teammate or a fellow NFL player and in Goodell's handling of this affair.

    But it's kind of sad that it took a video to make that happen. We already had a police report. We already had a previous video of him dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator. So what did we believe really happened? And the fact that we allowed ourselves that kind of wiggle room to explain away his actions shows us how much farther we have to go on this issue.

    But, yes, the criticism against their commissioner has been wide-swept during this week.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, Kavitha Davidson of Bloomberg, thanks so much.

  • KAVITHA DAVIDSON:

    Thank you.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    We have also invited NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for an interview.

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