Congressional Democrats pen letter to Goodell on Ray Rice case

Rice has been cut from the Baltimore Ravens and was indefinitely suspended from playing in the NFL. Goodell said Wednesday he did not completely rule out Rice coming back to the league.
By Aileen Graef Follow @AileenGraef Contact the Author   |  Sept. 10, 2014 at 4:01 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Twelve Democrats from the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Wednesday, condemning his lack of transparency in the Ray Rice case.

Goodell has received criticism for his response to the video of the former Baltimore Ravens running back beating his then-fiancee unconscious. He originally only suspended Rice for two games after the first video showed Rice dragging his unconscious wife, Janay, out of the elevator. It was reported the NFL never requested a copy of the elevator video to see what happened between the two.

Goodell has made it clear he does not think he is in danger of losing his position, but his critics say the NFL has a domestic violence issue and it's not being properly addressed by NFL leadership.

Referring to the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, the congressmen shared their concern over the "perpetration of domestic violence" in the League and condemned the lack of transparency associated with the investigation.

"While we understand that you have stated in an interview yesterday on behalf of the NFL that, 'We assumed that there was a video, we asked for the video, we asked for anything that was pertinent, but we were never granted that opportunity,' to our knowledge the public has not been informed as to specifically how and in what context the request was made," they wrote. "And specifically how relevant law enforcement responded. Nor has there been a full explanation as to whether the video was requested of others, such as Mr. Rice's attorney or the casino where the incident occurred (and if not, why not), or whether any employees, agents, or consultants of the league or any of its teams outside of your office had access to the video prior to September 8."
The members not only addressed the issue of domestic violence in all sports leagues, not just the NFL, and copied the American heads of U.S. hockey, soccer, baseball and basketball.

"We therefore urge greater transparency and explanations on these matters," they said. "We also believe other major professional sports leagues should consider making their policies public and reviews transparent as well."

The letter from the members to Goodell in its entirety:

Dear Commissioner Goodell:

We write concerning the important issue of domestic violence, which unfortunately impacts every level of our society, and which we must find ways to combat comprehensively. Our professional sports leagues are important economic and cultural institutions in the United States and we are interested in the manner in which these leagues handle incidents of domestic violence by their players, owners, and other employees. We believe that these high-profile professional leagues are, in many ways, in a position of public trust and should be at the forefront of handling such incidents appropriately.

With this year marking the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act, we all recognize that this issue requires strengthened and sustained efforts by individuals, organizations, and government. Of course, we are particularly concerned about information that has come to light about the perpetration of domestic violence by one of the NFL's players, Ray Rice, against his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, in an elevator at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey on February 15, 2014.

Given the important role the NFL and the other major professional sports leagues can play in shaping public perceptions concerning domestic violence, it would appear to be in the public interest to have the highest level of transparency associated with reviews of potential misconduct.

Thus for example, while we understand that you have stated in an interview yesterday on behalf of the NFL that, "We assumed that there was a video, we asked for the video, we asked for anything that was pertinent, but we were never granted that opportunity," to our knowledge the public has not been informed as to specifically how and in what context the request was made, and specifically how relevant law enforcement responded. Nor has there been a full explanation as to whether the video was requested of others, such as Mr. Rice's attorney or the casino where the incident occurred (and if not, why not), or whether any employees, agents, or consultants of the league or any of its teams outside of your office had access to the video prior to September 8. We therefore urge greater transparency and explanations of these matters.

We welcome your recent willingness to change the NFL's policies regarding issues of domestic violence, and we also believe other major professional sports leagues should consider making their policies public and reviews transparent as well. We look forward to working with you and all of the major professional sports leagues so that we can all participate in the effort to reduce incidents of domestic violence, increase transparency in their review, and better respond to those cases that unfortunately do occur.

Sincerely,

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) Rep. Luis Gutierrez (Ill.) Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas) Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (La.) Rep. Henry C. "Hank" Johnson Jr. (Ga.) Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.) Rep. Judy Chu (Calif.) Rep. Karen Bass (Calif.) Rep. Suzan K. DelBene (Wash.) Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.)

cc: CC: The Honorable Bob Goodlatte, Chairman, House Committee on the Judiciary; Mr. Gary Bettman, Commissioner, National Hockey League; Mr. Don Garber, commissioner, Major League Soccer; Mr. Bud Selig, Commissioner, Major League Baseball; Mr. Adam Silver, Commissioner, National Basketball Association

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