Roger Goodell's job security as NFL Commissioner might be "ambiguous" after a two-day hearing on the appeal of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice's indefinite suspension. According to a report from ESPN's "Outside The Lines," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome testified under oath that he heard Rice tell Goodell on June 16 that he had hit his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, in the elevator of an Atlantic City, N.J. casino in February. Newsome's reported testimony would seem to contradict previous claims made by Goodell as he attempted to explain the NFL's mishandling of the domestic violence matter.
According to Goodell, there had been something "ambiguous" about Rice's June account of what transpired in that elevator before the NFL issued its initial two-game suspension. As surveillance footage released by TMZ in September later showed, there was nothing ambiguous about what Rice did to his then-fiancee in the elevator: He struck her in the face, knocking her unconscious. The release of the video of the incident of domestic violence in September was followed by the Ravens terminating Rice's contract and the NFL issuing him an indefinite suspension, although it had levied a two-game ban in July.
"When we met with Ray Rice and his representatives, it was ambiguous about what actually happened," Goodell told Norah O'Donnell of CBS in his first public statements since the video of what occurred in the elevator was released by TMZ in September.
Before the NFL issued that two-game suspension, TMZ had released another video from the casino that showed Rice dragging his seemingly unconscious fiancee out of the elevator. That video had been released shortly after the incident.
"There was nothing ambiguous about that," Goodell later told O'Donnell, referring to the first video showing Rice exiting the elevator. "That was the result that we saw. We did not know what led up to that. We did not know the details of that. We asked for that on several occasions. It was unacceptable in and of itself what we saw on the first tape. And that's why we took action, albeit insufficient action. And we acknowledge that, we took responsibility for that -- I did personally -- and I take responsibility for that now. But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear and graphic and was absolutely necessary for us to take the action we did."
In formally notifying the NFL Players Association of Rice's revised suspension, Goodell wrote that the video presented a "starkly different" version of events than he had received from the three-time Pro Bowl selection during their June meeting.
"Based on this new information, I have concluded that the discipline imposed upon you in July was insufficient under all the circumstances and have determined instead to impose an indefinite suspension," Goodell wrote in the letter obtained by ESPN.
Under fire for his mishandling of the Rice matter and incidents of domestic violence involving NFL players, Goodell has seemed to blame the league's initially light punishment of Rice on that supposed ambiguity. The embattled Commissioner's version of events seemed to have been called into question, again, during the second day of Rice's disciplinary hearing in New York City. Citing two unnamed sources, Don Van Natta Jr. of ESPN reported that Newsome testified that he heard Rice tell Goodell he had hit his then-fiancee in the elevator.
While Goodell has claimed that Rice's account of events was either "ambiguous" or "starkly different" from what was shown in the video, Newsome has maintained that Rice did not mislead him about what happened.
“Ray didn’t lie to me,” Newsome told the Baltimore Sun shortly after the release of the damning video.
Rice has appealed the indefinite suspension and is seeking reinstatement into the NFL. Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones is the neutral arbiter hearing the appeal. She will determine whether the NFL overstepped its authority in changing Rice's two-game suspension into an indefinite ban after the graphic video of what occurred inside the elevator was made public.
"What occurred in the June 16 hearing is key to Rice's chances for reinstatement, sources said," reported Van Natta Jr. "He was suspended indefinitely Sept. 8 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after a video of him hitting Janay and knocking her out at an Atlantic City casino was released publicly."