There is every reason to believe that the NFL is lying, that league executives had seen the video of Ray Rice punching out his fiancée—not least of which is the fact that at least one NFL reporter described the contents of the tape, accurately and in detail, months before it was released by TMZ.
Way back in May, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on the contents of the video, based on what his sources had told him. "Ray Rice strikes her twice, and her head hits the rail."
Then, again in a July radio spot, Mortensen repeated the details (here's the audio):
We saw the TMZ video of what happened outside—when he was dragging her out unconscious—but inside, I'm told from those who have seen the video, it wasn't pretty. In fact, she attacks him—we don't know the reason why—and he strikes her, strikes he rhard. And her head—according to the sources I've spoken to—struck the rail inside the elevator, and she was unconscious.
The NFL announced on Monday that it did not have the video and that none of its top executives had even seen the video before deciding to suspend Rice for two games. Since then, some reporters have cravenly fallen on their own swords to protect their league sources. Mortensen has not.
Here's Mort on Monday's Outside the Lines, stating unequivocally that "the sources with whom I spoke had knowledge of the videotape, and in one case had seen the tape."
Said Mortensen, "The information was pretty strikingly similar to what we saw in the TMZ Sport video, which is that Ray Rice struck Janay twice inside the elevator, and on the second one, when she was going down, she hit her head on the elevator railing."
"As far as I can go in terms of talking about sourcing," continued Mortensen, who is an NFL reporter and not a cops and courts reporter, "yes. Somebody had seen that video."
ESPN's Jane McManus was told many of the same things back in July, and on OTL yesterday, she went further than Mort, identifying her information as coming from "league sources."
As for what those sources told her? "That's changed today," McManus said.
On Monday, after TMZ posted it, the NFL said the league had requested the video from prosecutors in the aggravated assault case, but hadn't been given it. This contradicts what two league sources had previously told me at the time the two-game suspension was announced, which was that the NFL had access to all the evidence that the prosecutors did.
Add to Mortensen and McManus the righteous anger of Adam Schefter, who on multiple occasions Monday blasted the NFL for misleading reporters. "It's an embarrassment of the highest proportions," Schefter said.
That's three ESPNers, visibly furious at being fucked over by their sources, but—for now—not willing to drop the bomb and fuck those sources over by revealing who in the NFL told them what about the video and when. Privately, other reporters have expressed anger over being hung out to dry by the league.
It's not the crime that gets you; it's the cover-up. And there are a whole bunch of reporters going as far as they possibly can without saying it outright that this cover-up begins with the NFL.
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