In the latest seriously-fucked-up development in the NFL's handling of the Ray Rice investigation, the league appears to be trying to shift the blame to Janay Rice—and in doing so, restates its woeful inability to grasp even the most basic concepts of domestic violence.
An unnamed NFL owner tells the Wall Street Journal that Roger Goodell did not properly pursue the investigation into Ray Rice because he was afraid to do anything but take Janay Rice, domestic violence victim, at anything less than face value on the abuse against her.
In conversations about the Rice case over the summer, the owner said, Goodell privately told other owners that during his investigation, in a meeting with the Rices in June, Janay Rice said she had struck her then-fiancée and that she believed she was partly at fault for the incident. Goodell also said he left the meeting believing that Janay Rice had become unconscious because she had fallen during the scuffle.
After Goodell suspended Rice for two games in July, this person said, Goodell told several NFL owners that he felt it would have been insensitive to question Janay Rice's story because it would have come across as an indictment of her character. Two people familiar with the commissioner's thinking, including the owner, said they believe the thoroughness of the investigation, and Goodell's decision to suspend Rice for two games, both reflected Goodell's discomfort with challenging Janay Rice's story.
This is insane.
It is insane because it blames Janay for "[believing] she was partly at fault," which is at the top of the page on any description of battered woman syndrome.
It is insane because Roger Goodell met with Janay Rice in a crowded conference room. It was Janay and six men, including Goodell, Ravens brass, two NFL executives, and the man who hit her. Any counselor, cop, or attorney experienced in domestic violence issues could have and should have told the NFL that victims will often blame themselves, defend their abusers, and even change their stories, all in the name of protecting the man they love. The NFL's judiciary should have disregarded anything Janay Rice told them, especially anything she said while sitting next to Ray Rice and five other men with vested interests in Ray Rice not getting in trouble.
But it is insane mostly because two people close to the commissioner, including one NFL owner, genuinely believe that absolute ignorance of the universally accepted dynamics of abusive relationships is a valid excuse for Goodell's investigative failures. The Old Boys' Club is quite comfortable falling back on "If anything, he cared too much."