The Ray Rice elevator tape: What did the NFL know?

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Story highlights

  • The NFL says it did not see the video showing Ray Rice striking his then-fiancée
  • AP report cites law enforcement source who says he gave NFL the video
  • Current, former players blast NFL commissioner
By now, you've likely seen the shocking video -- professional football player Ray Rice punching his future wife out cold in an Atlantic City casino elevator and dragging her limp body out. There's been so much to this saga, much of it developing very quickly every day this week. The latest is that the NFL has hired former FBI director Robert Mueller to lead an investigation into how the league handled the case involving the ex-Baltimore Ravens' running back. We have to say former because Rice was fired this week.
In this important story involving arguably America's most treasured sport, who said what when? Who knew what when? And where is this all going?
CNN breaks it down.
Can you explain this from the beginning?
This timeline is a great place to start to learn how far back this elevator incident goes -- it happened early in the morning on February 15 -- and the twists and turns continued until this past Monday when TMZ published a bombshell surveillance tape that revealed what happened inside the elevator. Until Monday, Ray Rice's punishment was a two-game suspension, a fine and an agreement to attend a rehabilitation program that some legal experts say could have cleared him of a third-degree aggravated assault charge if he met certain requirements.
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The TMZ tape hit and then what?
On September 8, TMZ published surveillance footage that showed Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer. She is now Janay Rice. The couple married a little more than a month after the February elevator incident.
When TMZ posted the tape on its website, Rice was about two weeks away from rejoining the Ravens on the field.
But after TMZ's Monday reporting, the situation changed for the ball player. Rice was released from his contract. Both he and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell faced incredible criticism. Current and former players and sports world insiders demanded to know if the league had asked for the tape and questioned how Goodell handled the whole matter.
What did the NFL commissioner say after TMZ published the video?
On September 9, Goodell talked to CBS. He said that no one in the NFL had seen the tape TMZ published showing what happened inside the elevator.
The NFL had only seen another video that showed the exterior of the elevator and Rice dragging Janay out of it.
About that scene -- in which Rice is seen pulling his unconscious fiancée out of the elevator, face-down -- Goodell said, "It was ambiguous about what actually happened" inside the elevator.
CBS's Norah O'Donnell asked: "But what was ambiguous about her laying unconscious on the floor being dragged out by her feet?"
"There was nothing ambiguous about that," Goodell replied. "That was the result that we saw. We did not know what led up to that. We did not know the details of that."
Goodell said no one at the league saw the videotape of Rice hitting his wife. Why?
Goodell told CBS that the NFL had requested all materials related to the case from law enforcement but did not receive anything.
"On multiple occasions, we asked for it," he said. "And on multiple occasions we were told no."
On Tuesday, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said that security for Atlantic City casinos is handled by New Jersey State Police. "Any videos related to an ongoing criminal investigation are held in the custody of the state police. As we said yesterday: We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us," McCarthy said in a statement.
Reaction to Goodell's handling of the Rice case was severe. Some sports observers and current and former players blasted him for giving Rice too light a punishment with the two-game suspension, and others said they doubted Goodell was being truthful that he'd not seen the tape showing what happened inside the elevator. Several questioned if he had really pushed hard enough to get it.
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CBS asked Goodell if he thought his job was on the line. He said no.
What is this about a news report contradicting Goodell's claims?
On Wednesday, the Associated Press, citing an unnamed law enforcement source, reported that the video showing the violence inside the elevator was actually given to the NFL five months ago.
The law enforcement official told the AP that in early April, he sent the video to an NFL executive. The official played a 12-second voicemail recorded April 9 from an NFL office number, the AP reported, in which a female voice confirmed that the video had been received. According to the AP, she expressed thanks and said, "You're right. It's terrible."
How is the former director of the FBI involved?
On Wednesday, the NFL said that Mueller, the FBI chief from 2001 to 2013, will have access to all NFL records.
According to league spokesman Greg Aiello, two NFL owners who are attorneys -- John Mara of the New York Giants and Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers -- will oversee the investigation.
"Many of us were dissatisfied with the original two-game suspension of Ray Rice," Mara said in a statement Wednesday.
Goodell "took responsibility for that in his August 28th memo to the owners when he stated, 'I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.' He then took appropriate steps to address this matter."
The NFL's policy on domestic violence "has been strengthened," he said, saying that the league has a "strong partnership with anti-domestic violence groups," and will "be a better league for it going forward."
Mara was referring to a change in policy that Goodell made recently that any NFL employees -- not just players -- who are determined to have committed battery, assault, domestic violence or sexual assault would be suspended without pay for six games for a first offense. Second-time offenders would be banned from the league for at least a year.
"My understanding is that the League and the Ravens made repeated requests to obtain the video of the Ray Rice incident and were denied each time," Mara's statement continued. "The notion that the League should have gone around law enforcement to obtain the video is, in my opinion, misguided, as is the notion that the Commissioner's job is now in jeopardy. The video is appalling, and I believe that the team and the League took appropriate action after they finally had the opportunity to view it.
"There is no place for domestic violence in our sport or in our society," he said, "and we are committed to doing our part to prevent such heinous acts going forward."
How are people reacting now?
"#FireGoodell" and "ResignGoodell" are trending on Twitter Thursday. Some current and former NFL players blasted Goodell on social media.
The commissioner "should be held accountable for his lack of action just like Ray Rice has finally been held accountable for his actions," free agent and former New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma tweeted Wednesday.
The same night, San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle tweeted: "As a husband, father and player I'm embarrassed to be associated with the NFL right now!"
"NFL Players Association should demand that Ray Rice be banned from the NFL. I'd be damned if I had to be associated w/ him [Rice]," tweeted nine-year NFL veteran Coy Wire.
Some feel there needs to be a broader examination of how the NFL handles allegations of domestic violence. An opinion piece Thursday by CNN legal analyst Mel Robbins brings up other cases and demands that Goodell lose his job.
The National Organization for Women, a longtime advocacy organization for women's rights, dismissed Mueller's appointment as "just window dressing," and was leading its web site Thursday with #ResignGoodell.
In other football circles, Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti admitted he didn't handle the Rice situation properly. He said he didn't see the video from inside the elevator and made false assumptions about what happened.