The findings from the investigation by former FBI director Robert Mueller into the NFL's handling of the Ray Rice incident have finally been released to the public. According to the 96-page report, no evidence was found showing anyone at the NFL had or saw the in-elevator video before it was publicly shown. Specifically, there was no evidence of a woman at the league office accepting receipt of the video in a voicemail message on April 9, 2014, which had previously been reported by various news outlets.
The report, however, went on to criticize the league for deferring the investigation to law enforcement officials, stating that it likely led to shortcomings in the NFL's own pursuit of additional information in the case.
Further, Mueller reprimanded the NFL for sitting on the significant evidence it did have prior to announcing the initial suspension and not performing a more in-depth investigation after discovering that such a serious incident had occurred between Rice and his then-fiancee Janay Palmer.
The report also lists several recommendations for additional improvements to the league's personal conduct policy, which was revised this winter in the wake of several notable domestic violence incidents among NFL players and personnel. These include:
- More training and better supervision for NFL investigators
- The creation of a specialized investigative team for domestic violence and sexual abuse cases
- Investigative guidelines and standards to encourage more thorough investigations
- Policies requiring more information sharing between the league and NFL clubs during investigation
Mueller provided details of the thorough manner in which his independent investigation was conducted. Per the report, Mueller and his team reviewed "millions of documents, emails, text messages and electronic data logs, and interviewed more than 200 NFL employees and contractors." They also employed "forensic experts" who searched the computers and cell phones of the league's executive to determine if any of them had "digital evidence" of the elevator surveillance video. Ultimately, the investigation found no evidence of anyone at the NFL receiving or viewing the elevator video prior to being released to the public on Sept. 8, 2014.
NFL commisioner Roger Goodell released a statement on Thursday thanking Mueller for "conducting an extremely thorough and detailed investigation." Goodell said the report made "a series of very constructive observations and recommendations regarding our prior investigatory procedures," the majority of which he claimed were addressed in recent revisions to the league's conduct policy.
"While this investigation has now concluded, our focus on the underlying issues and our commitment to positive change remain as strong as ever," Goodell said in the statement. "We have all learned a great deal in the past months and expect to be judged by how we lead going forward on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault."
John Mara and Art Rooney -- who oversaw the report -- released a statement about the findings on Thursday afternoon. They acknowledged a "weakness" in the league's practice of deferring to law enforcement officials during such cases of domestic violence, while expressing full confidence in Goodell and the NFL's new personal conduct policy going forward. Mara and Rooney said they have spoken with Goodell about the report's recommendations for improving the policy and will review them in greater detail with the commissioner.
The report comes nearly five months after Mueller was hired to examine what the league did and didn't know in regards to evidence in the Rice case. The investigation focused on the details of how Goodell and his staff pursued the case, and specifically whether anyone in the league office saw footage of the former Baltimore Ravens running back assaulting his then-fiancee Janay Palmer inside an elevator prior to the video being posted online.
Rice was originally given a two-game suspension from Goodell in July, that was later changed to an indefinite suspension after the elevator surveillance video showed a more aggravated assault by Rice against Palmer. Goodell claimed that he never saw this new evidence when he handed out the initial discipline to Rice, but the Associated Press later reported that the elevator video was in possession of the NFL back in April. The league immediately refuted that report, and then announced an independent investigation of the entire Rice situation by the former FBI director Robert Mueller.
Below is the full 96-page report of Mueller's investigation: