By Michael Klopman, The Huffman Post
The Baltimore Ravens released a lengthy statement on Monday pushing back on the highly critical report from ESPN’s “Outside The Lines.” The report, which ran last week, claimed that the organization was guilty of “purposeful misdirection” in the handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case.
“As I stated in our letter to you on September 9, we did not do all we should have done, and no amount of explanation can remedy that. But there has been no misdirection or misinformation by the Ravens,” Ravens owner Steve Biscotti said in the statement.
Citing more than 20 unnamed sources, ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. and Kevin Van Valkenburg reported that the team’s director of security, Darren Sanders, received a detailed account of Rice punching his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator in Atlantic City, N.J. just hours after it took place in February.
In the Ravens’ statement, Sanders denied the allegations and said the Atlantic City police officer that he spoke to couldn’t tell if Rice “slapped or punched” her.
I did not receive an account of what happened in the elevator “within hours” of the incident. Within a couple of days, I asked the casino and the Atlantic City Police Department for a copy of any videotape of the incident. They said they could not release a copy of the videotape to me. Some days later—I believe it was on February 25—I spoke to an Atlantic City police official again, asking again whether I could get a copy of the tape or, if not, whether I could come to his New Jersey office and view it. He said I could not, but he did offer to view the tape and describe what he saw,” Sanders said in the statement. “(As I understand it, he was describing a raw video, not the “cleaned up,” “smoothed . . . out” version that appeared on TMZ.) He said that Ray and Janay both appeared to be intoxicated, and that they were involved in a heated argument that began outside the elevator and continued inside. As he described it, Janay appeared to initiate the altercation, but they both spit at and struck each other, resulting in Janay falling and hitting her head against the wall railing. The officer could not tell from the video whether Ray slapped or punched her, but Ray told me very clearly that he did not punch her. It was not clear from the officer’s account whether it was being intoxicated, being hit, or hitting her head against the railing that caused Janay’s apparent unconsciousness.
Click here to to read the entire statement from the Ravens.
When speaking to reporters on Monday, Biscotti said it was “obvious” that Van Natta Jr. and Van Valkenburg’s sources were from Rice’s camp.
“What’s obvious is that the majority of the sources are people that work for Ray. Almost everything in there is anonymous, but it’s clear from the subject matter that it’s Ray’s attorney, it’s Ray’s agent, it’s Ray’s friends,” Biscotti said. “They are building a case for reinstatement. And the best way to build a case for reinstatement is to make everybody else make look like they were lying.”
The “OTL” report also alleged that Biscotti, Ravens’ president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome urged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to hand Rice a two-game suspension during the summer. On Monday, Biscotti denied that he ever pushed for such a lenient punishment.
“I expected four or six games, I was surprised as everyone else that it was two,” Biscotti told reporters, referring to when the NFL suspended Rice for two games. In the statement, both Cass and Newsome also denied urging Goodell to be lenient when disciplining Rice.
The NFL suspended Rice for two games in July. But that suspension was changed to an indefinite ban shortly after the inside-the-elevator video was made public by TMZ on Sept. 8. Hours after the video was released, the Ravens terminated Rice’s contract.
Later on Monday, Van Natta defended his reporting and refuted Biscotti’s claim that most of his sources are associated with Rice.
“Not true. Unfortunately, Mr. Biscott doesn’t know the identity of most of our sources. They’re anonymous sources. That’s the nature of this kind of work that we do in investigative reporting. We talked to more than 20 sources. We have team sources, people inside the building, the Ravens building, talk to us, confirmed much of what was in our account. We talked to league sources, talked to union sources, people that were in the loop in the timeline that we laid out from February to September. Unfortunately, it’s an assumption he’s making about where this is coming from. I understand why he’s making that assumption. We talked to some of Ray Rice’s friends on the record in the story,” Van Natta said. “Unfortunately, it’s not true and it’s an oversimplification of the kind of work we put into this story.”
This story has been updated with remarks from ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr.