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ESPN reporter defends report claiming Ravens misled NFL after Ray Rice's arrest

Don Van Natta defended his "Outside the Lines" report after Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti questioned sources that claimed the team misled the NFL and media in the months following Ray Rice's arrest.

Rob Carr

ESPN investigative reporter Don Van Natta spoke with Outside the Lines on Monday to defend his report claiming the Baltimore Ravens employed "a pattern of misinformation and misdirection" in the months following Ray Rice's domestic violence arrest.

The report led to a series of statements by the Ravens attempting to discredit it, among them an assertion by Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti that Van Natta received his information primarily from Rice's friends and legal team -- sources who are being paid by Rice or otherwise have a vested personal interest in the running back. Speaking with ESPN's Bob Ley, Van Natta said that Bisciotti's assertion was "not true."

"Unfortunately, Mr. Bisciotti doesn't know the identity of most of our sources," Van Natta said. "They're anonymous sources, it's the nature of this kind of work that we do in investigative reporting."

Van Natta said that the report used more than 20 sources, among them people within the Ravens organization, and sources with close ties to the NFL and NFL Players Association. Van Natta called Bisciotti's account an "oversimplification" of the work that went into the investigation.

Van Natta addressed the Ravens' lengthy 15-point attempt to disassemble the Outside the Lines report. According to Van Natta, the Ravens' statement disputes the timing of events as detailed in the report, but does not negate the primary point that the team knew in February what was on the tape that earned Rice an indefinite suspension when it was leaked earlier this month.

The Ravens' statement also addressed a portion of the report claiming that Bisciotti suggested to Rice over text messages that he could one day work with the organization again -- something Rice understood as an attempt by Bisciotti to buy his cooperation. Bisciotti claimed that Rice could not have possibly interpreted his messages as such, but Van Natta defended his reporting, citing a friend who was reportedly in the room when Rice received Bisciotti's text messages.