While the NFL playoffs and head coaching searches have dominated headlines the last two weeks, Thursday was an exception thanks to the release of the Mueller report. You can read the full report HERE. I've embedded the executive summary down below, which is only nine pages and offers some of the highlights. SB Nation put together a rundown of 7 takeaways from the report.
For those unaware, the Mueller report came about due to the NFL's handling of Ray Rice's assault on his then fiancee, Janay, in Atlantic City back in February. The NFL suspended Rice for two games after video emerging showing Ray dragging Janay out of an elevator in an Atlantic City casino. The Rices had an embarrassing press conference with Janay apologizing for her role in the incident, and later in the summer, Roger Goodell had his own embarrassing press conference. He talked about not getting it right. This all resulted in the NFL instituting a new policy on domestic violence.
A week and a half later, video emerged once again on TMZ, this time showing the full disturbing video of Rice punching his then fiancee. On that same day, the Ravens released Rice, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. The NFL said they did not see the video until after the TMZ release, and things sort of devolved from there. SB Nation has a timeline of the full sequence of events leading to Ray Rice winning an appeal of his indefinite suspension.
At its most basic, the Mueller report believes the NFL did not in fact see the video, like Goodell and others said. The report does however criticize the NFL for not doing more to get information on the incident, and figuring out alternative ways to view the video. In particular, the report suggests the NFL could have, but did not do the following:
- League investigators did not contact any of the police officers involved in responding to or investigating the incident for information about the incident.
- League investigators did not contact the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office.
- League investigators did not contact the Revel in an effort to obtain a copy of or at least see the video of what had occurred in the elevator or to obtain a copy of any internal Revel reports.
- After the initial contacts with Sanders in February, League investigators did not periodically check with the Ravens to determine whether the team was in possession of additional information. The Ravens, in turn, did not share information that the team learned with the League.
- League investigators did not contact Rice's lawyer for information either while the criminal case was active or after the PTI disposition on May 20 in anticipation of the June 16 meeting, nor did League investigators contact Rice himself at any point in time.
- League investigators did not go back to ACPD or the Revel after May 20, when Rice's PTI application was approved, to see if more information might then be available to the League.
In regards to the video, this report reads as the NFL essentially sticking their head in the sand in a lot of ways, and thus being able to claim ignorance on the matter.
There are numerous problems with that, but one of the biggest might be the fact that the NFL released this statement:
We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator.
I imagine the NFL will play semantics games and say, well we contacted persons X or Y, and that means we contacted law enforcement. And yet as the report pointed out, the NFL had numerous other options they could have considered, but chose not to.
And yet, that is not even the biggest problem with this report. As soon as the report came out and said the NFL had not seen the tape, plenty of folks screamed about Mueller being paid to just report that nothing happened. On the one hand, the appearance of a sham report is easy to infer from the fact that the inquiry was created by John Mara and Art Rooney. These two owners were part of the group that helped get Roger Goodell voted in as commissioner. Additionally, Mueller works for the law firm that negotiated the NFL's current deal with DirecTV, and his firm has done work for various franchises.
However, the real issue is less any sort of crony-ism or whatever, and rather the notion that the NFL was asking Mueller to find a different truth that was not nearly as significant. SI's Michael Rosenberg wrote a great article explaining the problems with the report that puts it better than I probably can.
But from the moment this scandal blew up on him, Goodell has tried to shift the conversation away from his own failure. He wants it to be about the NFL's domestic-violence policy, because that can be fixed. He wants to present himself as the solution to the problem without fully acknowledging he was the problem.
This is why Goodell brazenly insisted nobody in league offices had seen the punch video, when he had barely even looked into the possibility. Then, when theAssociated Press reported days later that a law-enforcement source had sent the video to the league and received a voicemail confirming its arrival, Goodell finally hired Mueller.
Even if the NFL never received the video, as the report suggests, the NFL seemingly already knew Rice's assault on his fiancee was much worse than the public was led to believe. In reinstating Rice, Judge Barbara Jones ruled that Rice did not lie or mislead the NFL as to his actions that night. And yet the NFL had said the video showed much more than what Rice told them. Based on Jones's ruling, this is not true.
Deadspin had another good take on the situation, suggesting that in failing, Goodell is in position to potentially gain more power. The report suggests Goodell and the NFL should use more power. Because apparently we are supposed to trust the NFL and Roger Goodell to handle that power in a fair manner. It will be interesting to see just how the NFL moves forward with its new policy.