NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In an exclusive interview with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke out for the first time Tuesday about the growing outrage over the Ray Rice scandal.
With the league’s top executive under tremendous scrutiny, O’Donnell, co-host of “CBS This Morning,” peppered Goodell with a number of questions on a second video tape that turned what many thought was a shut case into a national firestorm.
Initially, Rice was suspended two games for his role in a domestic violence attack on his then-fiancee, but criticism of Goodell’s handling of the matter only grew on Monday, when TMZ released the graphic second video of the former Baltimore Ravens running back brutally assaulting Janay Rice in an elevator in the now-shuttered Revel casino in Atlantic City.
Janay Rice was knocked unconscious.
The Ravens released Rice on Monday, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.
As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, Goodell was facing the music Tuesday, answering the questions that everyone has been asking since the latest video surfaced.
Goodell was adamant that the second video was “new evidence” that no one within the NFL had seen before Monday.
Goodell told O’Donnell that on Monday morning, “I got into our office, and our staff had come to me and said, ‘There’s new evidence; there’s a video that you need to see,’ and I watched it then.”
A major question was why the NFL, with its security resources, did not know about the second tape released Monday, and how TMZ ended up releasing it, O’Donnell reported.
Goodell said the NFL was never given the video despite requests for it.
“We had not seen any videotape of what occurred in the elevator. We assumed that there was a video. We asked for video. We asked for anything that was pertinent. But we were never granted that opportunity,” he said.
O’Donnell asked whether anyone at the NFL had seen the tape before Monday. Goodell said to his knowledge, no one had.
He said the NFL was aware that the tape existed and was in the hands of a prosecutor’s office, but multiple attempts to obtain the tape failed, O’Donnell reported.
When asked how TMZ got hold of the tape while the NFL could not, Goodell said it was a matter of using reliable sources.
“I don’t know how TMZ or any other website gets their information,” he said. “We are particularly reliant on law enforcement — that’s the most reliable. It’s the most credible. And we don’t seek to get that information form sources that are un-credible.”
O’Donnell also asked why the NFL did not go to the casino to get the videotape. Goodell suggested that doing so would have been illegal.
Earlier Tuesday, TMZ Sports said the NFL never reached out to the casino and suggested the league could have done so.
“Sources who worked at the casino at the time of the incident tell us … if the NFL had asked for the video, they would have gladly complied,” TMZ reported.
TMZ also released a response following O’Donnell’s interview with Goodell, arguing that the commissioner could have, and should have gone to the casino.
“It is true … the Grand Jury was evaluating the case and we’re told there’s no way authorities would give up evidence in a pending case,” said the response attributed to the TMZ Staff. “But that doesn’t mean the NFL — a private organization — couldn’t approach the casino directly … which would not impede the investigation in any way.”
O’Donnell asked Goodell in the interview whether the NFL dropped the ball, or was willfully ignorant about what was on the tape.
“We certainly didn’t know about the tape. But we have been very open and honest, and I have also — from two weeks ago — acknowledged that we didn’t get this right,” Goodell said. “That’s my responsibility, and I’m accountable for that.”
The first video released by TMZ showed Janay Rice lying unconscious on the ground and being dragged out of the elevator. O’Donnell asked whether the NFL needed to see the second tape showing Ray Rice punching his now-wife to make its disciplinary decision.
“No, we certainly didn’t,” Goodell said, “and I will tell you that what we saw in the first videotape was troubling to us in and of itself. But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear, is extremely graphic, and it was sickening — and that’s why we took the action we took yesterday.”
New York Daily News sports columnist Gary Myers has been covering the NFL for more than 35 years, and said his sources told him when Rice first described what happened in that elevator to Goodell, he brushed over some details.
“It was somewhat of a watered down version of the events, and it wasn’t as graphic and it didn’t make it seem as bad as we saw in that video,” Myers told CBS 2’s Matt Kozar on Tuesday.
When asked what it means to have Rice “suspended indefinitely,” Goodell said it did not necessarily mean Rice will never play in the NFL again.
“I don’t rule that out, but he would have to make sure that we are fully confident that he is addressing this issue, clearly; he has paid a price for the actions that he has already taken,” Goodell said.
There have also been some calls for Goodell himself to step down. When asked if he feels like his job was on the line, he said he does not.
“I’m used to the criticism. I’m used to that every day. I have to earn my stripes,” he said.
Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti sent out a letter to fans Tuesday, saying his organization asked the casino, prosecutors and police for the video in the elevator and were denied.
CBS 2 reached out to prosecutors and police in Atlantic City Tuesday, but they refused to comment.
More of O’Donnell’s interview with Goodell will air Thursday on “CBS This Morning.”
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