Ravens Can’t Explain Away ESPN Allegations

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Steve Bisciotti addressing ESPN alegations
Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti

Yesterday the Ravens organization released a point-by-point rebuttal of the ESPN allegations made in an “Outside the Lines” report that, among other things, alleged that Baltimore Ravens executives were aware of the content of the inside-the-elevator footage of Ray Rice’s assault, chose not to view it, and actively sought leniency for their running back. (You can read the entire release here.)

Fifteen claims from ESPN report were addressed with statements from Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, director of security Darren Sanders, general manager Ozzie Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, and president Dick Cass. The rebuttals begin to buckle under their own weight when they try to safely navigate accusations about how much they knew about the incident and when.

In the statement, Bisciotti maintained that up until TMZ’s release of the inside-the-elevator video the team trusted “Ray’s account that in the course of a physical altercation between the two of them he slapped Janay with an open hand, and that she hit her head against the elevator rail or wall as she fell to the ground.”

Sanders stated that Atlantic City police denied his request to view the inside-the-elevator video. He says a police official described the content of the video to him, but because the official was looking at the “raw video, not the ‘cleaned up,’ ‘smoothed . . . out’ version that appeared on TMZ.” He was referring to the report five days ago by Gawker that TMZ “smoothed-out and edited” the video. “Janay appeared to initiate the altercation,” it was unclear “whether Ray slapped or punched her,” nor “whether it was being intoxicated, being hit, or hitting her head against the railing that caused Janay’s apparent unconsciousness.”

But what about Newsome, upon viewing the inside-the-elevator video, telling the Baltimore Sun that Ray had given a story” to him and Harbaugh and that “what we saw on the video was what Ray said”?

Newsome explained that Rice’s “story” consisted of a one-word answer, “yes,” to the question, “Did you hit her?” Newsome stated that he didn’t inquire further and that “the video was much more violent than what [he] had pictured.”

Cass attempted to explain why, after being given an unequivocal assessment of the video from Rice’s attorney — “it’s f—ing horrible” the attorney is reported to have said — he continued to believe Ray’s supposed open-handed-slap story. “I did not ask Ray’s attorney for a copy of the video. I assumed the video would be terrible, because it would show a man striking a woman,” he said. “But I also thought the video would show a physical altercation where Ray was defending himself with an open hand.”

What do these defenses add up to? A hard-to-credit picture of team officials who are somehow — everyone of them — profoundly credulous, profoundly ignorant of the nature of domestic violence, and profoundly blase about their own PR.

In a 45-minute press conference that followed the team’s press statement Bisciotti told reporters: “Last week it was our competence being questioned. Now it’s our integrity.” It seems the Ravens brass would prefer the conversation return to the subject of competence, however implausible that may be.

UPDATE: The post was edited to include a link to the Gawker story about the TMZ edit of the Ray Rice video.

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