In a letter to stakeholders released Tuesday night, Baltimore Ravens owner Stephen J. Biscotti conceded that the team "did not do all we should have done" in its internal investigation of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.
Biscotti's letter comes amid widespread criticism of both the Ravens and the NFL for failing to enact a more severe punishment on Rice earlier for a February 15th altercation between the star running back and his now-wife Janay Parker at an Atlantic City casino. Surveillance video showing Rice dragging a seemingly unconscious Parker from an elevator became public shortly thereafter and the NFL was slammed repeatedly for levying just a two-game suspension of Rice.
On Monday, TMZ revealed more shocking footage from the elevator encounter, showing Rice punching Parker in the face and knocking her off her feet. Once this new clip went public, the Ravens quickly cut ties with Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. In the aftermath of these actions, many sports fans and critics have been wondering, What did the Ravens know and when did they know it?
"You deserve an explanation," admits Biscotti at the opening of his letter before recounting the timeline of the Ravens' involvement in the Rice case, claiming that after learning that the couple had both been charged with "simple assault," Rice told the team that what took place was little more than an alcohol-fueled fight that led to he and his then-fiancée striking each other.
"We contacted the casino management and asked if there was video of the incident from inside the elevator that we could see. The casino would not share such video," said Biscotti. "We asked the local New Jersey police and the police refused as well. We asked the prosecutor's office and that office refused. It was our understanding at that time that Ray's attorney had not yet seen the video. NFL officials had been informed, and we know they were also trying to retrieve and/or see the video."
TMZ has said that the NFL made no effort to obtain the video in question. The NFL, like the Ravens, has repeatedly claimed that they were unaware of and unable to access the footage which prematurely ended Rice's football career.
According to Biscotti, "This is what we knew: A player who had been a model citizen in the community and terrific teammate for six seasons had been charged with simple assault against his fiancée. At that time, his fiancée Janay had been similarly charged."
Biscotti now admits that the team decided to defer taking action once charges were dropped against Parker and elevated to aggravated assault against Rice in March. "That was a mistake on our part," wrote Biscotti, who claims that the team's management saw the TMZ clip of Rice punching Parker for the first time on Monday morning.
"The decision to let Ray Rice go was unanimous. Seeing that video changed everything. We should have seen it earlier. We should have pursued our own investigation more vigorously. We didn't and we were wrong," he said.
The Ravens owner went on to trumpet the team's recent partnership with the House of Ruth and efforts to increase education and awareness throughout their organization on domestic violence and sexual assault.
Meanwhile, the fallout from Rice’s indefinite suspension has been swift. Nike has cut off its endorsement deal with the 27-year-old three-time Pro Bowler on Tuesday and EA Sports has also pulled Rice from its popular “Madden NFL 15” video game series.
Rice on Tuesday made his first public statement since his contract was terminated. He told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that he has to “be strong for my wife.” He added, “She is so strong. We are in good spirits. We have a lot of people praying for us and we’ll continue to support each other. I have to be there for [Janay] and my family right now and work through this.”
Parker was decidedly less optimistic in her lone public comments since the new video became public. In an Instagram post, which has since been removed from her account, she lashed out at the media and lamented the "horrible nightmare" her life has become.
"No one knows the pain that the media and unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass of for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific," she wrote on Tuesday, adding, "THIS IS OUR LIFE!"