Baltimore Ravens owner Stephen J. Bisciotti refuted on Monday a bombshell ESPN “Outside the Lines” report which claimed that the franchise was aware of the severity of Ray Rice’s domestic violence incident as far back as February, telling the press, “I can’t please those people who think we didn’t do enough.”
Bisciotti, who said he had “incredibly loving feelings” for Rice, also said that he hasn’t closed the door to re-employing the controversial former player in a non-football capacity in the future. “People that redeem themselves are the best ones to lead others,” he said. Bisciotti also said Rice could be “a great asset to us down the road.”
The 54-year-old Ravens owner is facing a whirlwind of new criticism in the wake of the ESPN report, which alleged that the team made a concerted effort to conceal the footage of Rice’s assault on his then-fiancee Janay Palmer and to persuade NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to give their former star running back a two-game suspension.
“I was surprised as anyone else that it was two [games],” said Bisciotti. “I was prepared for four or six games.” The Ravens owner repeatedly said that his biggest regret was not “pushing harder” to get the surveillance footage of Rice, because he feels that had it all been made public earlier, Rice would have been given an “unprecedented” eight-game to year-long suspension, and the public might have forgiven him.
Still, Biscotti said he believes Janay is “the one that’s suffering the most” because, among other things, “she has an unemployed husband.”
The Ravens coach, Jim Harbaugh, also refuted the ESPN story on Monday.
“I did not recommend cutting Ray Rice from the team after seeing the first videotape,” Harbaugh told reporters. “I was very disturbed by that tape, and I told people that the facts should determine the consequences. When I saw the second videotape, I immediately felt that we needed to release Ray.”
“Ray Rice never told me that he punched her,” he added.
In addition to Monday’s press conference, the Ravens released a 15-point press release which they hoped would refute the allegations made by ESPN. During his remarks, Biscotti claimed that the ESPN story was largely sourced by Rice allies seeking to get his indefinite suspension from the NFL overturned.
However, he did concede that it “didn’t cross his mind” to aggressively pursue the full video of Rice’s assault in February. “I’m not that honorable I guess,” Bisciotti said.
Bisciotti also dismissed reports that his ownership of the Ravens might be in jeopardy. “If they force me to sell, then I guess I’ll sell,” he said with a smile, claiming he hadn’t heard rumors that he might get pushed out.
The Ravens owner stopped short of heaping blame on embattled NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “I’m not here to talk about Roger,” Bisciotti told reporters. He said he didn’t believe Goodell should step down in the wake of the Ray Rice controversy, which he conceded was the greatest “crisis” of his tenure owning the team.
“I give you my word that some things are going to change,” Bisciotti said, but he also warned that a “zero tolerance” policy on domestic violence in the NFL could lead to a slippery slope of players being targeted by “opportunistic people out there.”
An independent investigation led by former FBI director Robert Mueller is looking into how the NFL and the Ravens handled the Ray Rice incident and reportedly has been promised full cooperation from Goodell.
Still, Bisciotti sounded an almost defiant note on Monday: “Nobody is losing a job here, I’m very confident of that,” he said.