It begins with the February 15th arrest of Rice and his then-fiance/current wife Janay Palmer for assault and subsequent release of Atlantic Casino security footage showing Rice dragging Palmer's unconscious body from an elevator. It was clear at that point that some type of domestic dispute, the details of which were unclear, had occurred inside the elevator.
Based on that evidence and the outcome of the judiciary process which involved Rice enrolling in a pre-trial intervention program to avoid prosecution, the Ravens running back was doled out a two-game suspension. The punishment sparked public outrage at it's insignificance, especially in relation to recreational and performance-enhancing drug-related suspensions that have ranged anywhere from 6 weeks to an entire season. On August 28th the NFL announced revisions to their personal conduct code to include stricter punishments for domestic violence incidents, with commissioner Roger Goodell stating "I didn't get it right...simply put, we have to do better. And we will.".
On Monday morning of Sept. 8th, TMZ Sports released the now infamous security footage of what actually happened inside the elevator. Rice brutally knockout-punched Palmer in the head and stood over her unconscious body until the elevator doors opened, when he then dragged her limp body across the elevator floor and out the doors. The footage is graphic, difficult to watch, and raises many questions regarding the extent of domestic abuse in the NFL.
Almost immediately, Rice was suspended indefinitely from the NFL. The NFL and Baltimore Ravens both stated explicitly that they had not seen the footage previously.
"That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today,'' said league spokesman Greg Aiello.
Here's where things get pretty damn unflattering for the NFL.
There are very few people who believe that the NFL did not see the video prior to it's leak to the public on Monday.
There are even fewer people who believe that the NFL not have access to view the video prior to Monday.
ESPN legal analysts Lester Munson and Roger Cossack were interviewed Tuesday morning on SportsCenter, and are both boldly suspicious of the NFL's claims that the video hadn't been available to them previously.
"Let's keep in mind that the NFL has former FBI agents, secret service, police officers...[with access to this type of evidence]...it remains very doubtful to us that they did not have it when the commissioner made his original decision", stated Munson.
Cossack followed up saying, "Ray Rice's attorney would have been given that video...it's hard for me to believe that they couldn't have gotten a hold of that video if they wanted to."
There are even fewer people still who believe that - regardless of their access to the footage- the NFL could not have deduced the level of violence that must have taken place in the elevator based on the earlier footage of Rice coldly dragging his unconscious fiance across the floor.
So we are looking at a situation with two very obvious possibilities, neither of which inspire any confidence in the decency and humanity of the upper echelons of the NFL; particularly Goodell. They either saw the video and chose to sweep under the rug what is very obviously a violent and criminal act by one of their players, or chose to play dumb by purposely avoiding the footage in order to skirt the responsibility that it's content would encumber.
But maybe the even more important question is why?
Why protect Ray Rice? The video evidence of what happened basically relieves the NFL completely from having to make a difficult ruling that would encompass any gray-area. So why ignore that evidence and continue to under-sanction Rice?
Did they really believe the video evidence would just go away, and that they could avoid a major suspension altogether? And if they are just looking to avoid controversy, doesn't that mean that the safety of the players and their families have now been trumped by the NFL's laughably incompetent attempt at image control?
We are just two seasons removed from the Kansas City Chiefs' linebacker Jovan Belcher shooting his wife and then killing himself in the parking lot in front of his coaches. Aaron Hernandez is in jail for murder, suspected of killing up to four people across the course of many years. What kid of atrocity will have to take place in order for the NFL to start not just sanction these players once they are caught, but begin seeking answers about their off-field lives before it is too late? This multi-billion dollar league has admitted responsibility to the community, fans and family of its' players and yet they continue to turn a blind eye until they are sucker-punched with evidence. And even then they screw it up.
It's patently clear that the NFL is an organization in which accountability is directly proportionate to profitability; and the National Football League is the most profitable league in the world.
That's very scary.