ESPN's Outside The Lines just dropped a doozy of a story about the handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident. It's a long and thoroughly reported piece, centering mainly on the Ravens' end of the investigation, but the big bullet points are these: Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, president Dick Cass, and GM Ozzie Newsome actively tried to prevent the inside-the-elevator tape from becoming public. Cass, for one, had been told by Rice's attorney that the video was "fucking horrible." The attempted coverup reportedly extended to Rice himself. According to ESPN's reporting, the running back believes Bisciotti tried to bribe him with a cushy front-office job in exchange for his silence.

OTL reports that Ravens head of security Darren Sanders got a detailed description of what was on the elevator tape from a Revel casino employee just hours after the incident occurred. This account was then relayed to team executives. Soon, Newsome, Cass, and Bisciotti, along with Rice's shitbag attorney, Michael Diamondstein, were going about the business of making sure the video would never see the light of day.

After the Feb. 15 incident in the casino elevator, Ravens executives — in particular owner Steve Bisciotti, president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome — began extensive public and private campaigns pushing for leniency for Rice on several fronts: from the judicial system in Atlantic County, where Rice faced assault charges, to commissioner Goodell, who ultimately would decide the number of games Rice would be suspended from this fall, to within their own building, where some were arguing immediately after the incident that Rice should be released.

The Ravens also consulted frequently with Rice's Philadelphia defense attorney, Michael J. Diamondstein, who in early April had obtained a copy of the inside-elevator video and told Cass: "It's f—-ing horrible." Cass did not request a copy of the video from Diamondstein but instead began urging Rice's legal team to get Rice accepted into a pretrial intervention program after being told some of the program's benefits. Among them: It would keep the inside-elevator video from becoming public.

Once the video became public, Bisciotti claimed that the team had not seen the tape until it was released by TMZ, suggesting that the account Rice had given him was somehow at odds with the elevator footage. This is also Goodell's claim, though OTL has four sources saying that Rice told the truth in his meeting with the commissioner. The Ravens released Rice on Sept. 8 and then, according to ESPN, immediately offered an olive branch.

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Minutes later, Rice's phone buzzed. He could scarcely believe what he was looking at— back-to-back text messages from Bisciotti. Rice read them aloud so everyone in the room could hear them:

Hey Ray, just want to let you know, we loved you as a player, it was great having you here. Hopefully all these things are going to die down. I wish the best for you and Janay.

When you're done with football, I'd like you to know you have a job waiting for you with the Ravens helping young guys getting acclimated to the league.

[...]

A few days later, after thinking about it more, Rice told friends he believed Bisciotti was suggesting that, as long as he kept quiet and stuck to the story that he had misled team officials and Goodell about what had happened in the elevator, the Ravens would take care of him down the road. He felt incredibly insulted.

The Ravens didn't present a united front. Newsome went on record saying that Ricehad been honest with the team, and ESPN's report claims that John Harbaugh asked the Ravens to release Rice as soon as he heard about the incident:

Although the grainy video did not show what had happened behind the elevator's doors, the images horrified Ravens coach John Harbaugh, according to four sources inside and outside the organization. The Super Bowl-winning coach urged his bosses to release Rice immediately, especially if the team had evidence Rice had thrown a punch. That opinion was shared by George Kokinis, the Baltimore director of player personnel, according to a fifth source outside the organization but familiar with the team's thinking.

But Harbaugh's recommendation to cut the six-year veteran running back was quickly rejected by Ravens management: owner Bisciotti, team president Cass and GM Newsome.

Curiously, OTL's story doesn't ever mention the Associated Press report claiming that an NFL official did in fact have a copy of the elevator tape, seemingly accepting the NFL's explanation that nobody in the league office saw the tape until it was released by TMZ. Between that angle, which the reporters on this story surely didn't just forget about, and the people who look bad here working to save themselves, you can surely expect more revelations in the days and weeks to come.

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[ESPN]