Glad somone is asking questions....
Former FBI director Robert Mueller had barely been named to head the NFL’s independent investigation into its handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case and the move was being widely criticized.
The president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which has called for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign, questioned whether the investigation would be independent because the league has hired Mueller who works for a law firm that has represented the NFL. In addition, the investigation is being overseen by two owners.
WilmerHale has worked with the the league on variety of matters, such as the NFL Sunday Ticket broadcast package. In addition, Dick Cass — team president for the Ravens, who cut Rice on Monday — worked for WilmerHale before moving to his current role.
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"That sounds like an insider investigation,” O’Neill told USA TODAY Sports Thursday. "There needs to be a truly independent, top-to-bottom review by individuals who have full authority to gather all the facts and to suggest solutions.”
Attorney Peter Ginsberg, who represented then-New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma during an investigation into allegations that members of the Saints earned bonuses for inflicting injuries on opposing players, expressed skepticism about the league’s plan. He pointed out that the NFL appointed an independent investigator, former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White, and her “Bountygate” investigation “failed significantly.”
Goodell named former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to hear appeals from defensive players Vilma, Scott Fujita, Will Smith and Anthony Hargrove. Tagliabue affirmed Goodell’s factual findings that the Saints operated a bounty program from 2009-11. But his decision to vacate all penalties wiped Goodell’s suspensions and fines off the board, signifying Tagliabue felt Goodell overreached in issuing his sanctions.
"It’s also important to remember the last time the commissioner appointed a supposedly independent investigator that person was co-opted by the NFL and failed significantly in her responsibilities truly to investigate,” Ginsberg told USA TODAY Sports, referencing White. "So the idea that commissioner Goodell is the person appointing an independent investigator is troubling.”
But attorney John M. Dowd, who conducted an investigation into the Pete Rose gambling scandal for Major League Baseball in 1989, said the criticism is unwarranted — in part because the NFL picked Mueller to lead the investigation.
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"I don’t think it’s fair criticism,” Dowd told USA TODAY Sports. "I think you’ve got to wait until he’s done and see his work product and then make any judgments you want to make.
"Bobby Mueller is an outstanding lawyer, an honest man, and has a reputation to protect,” Dowd said. I think he’ll just do a straight job.”
Dowd said also he had no qualms about New York Giants owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney overseeing the investigation.
"I reported to the commissioner and the deputy commissioner of baseball,” Dowd said. "You’ve got to report to somebody.
"The real key to all these investigations, inside the government or outside the government, is that they be done with integrity.”
Mara and Rooney issued a joint statement Thursday and said they had been in contact with Mueller. The owners said the investigation will be independent and the final report will be made public.
"Our role is not to conduct or direct the investigation but to support Mr. Mueller and assist him in gaining whatever access or resources he needs,” the statement reads. "At the conclusion of Mr. Mueller’s investigation, we will receive his findings on behalf of the league’s owners.
"Our sole motive here is to get the truth and then share Mr. Mueller’s findings with the public."
Mueller is preparing to begin the investigation, according to the statement.
"No timeline was established and we stressed that he should take as much time as necessary to complete a thorough investigation,” the statement read. "We agreed that the scope of the investigation should be aimed at getting answers to specific questions, including what efforts were made by league staff to obtain the video of what took place inside the elevator and to determine whether, in fact, the video was ever delivered to someone at the league office, and if so, what happened to the video after it was delivered.”
O’Neill also criticized the NFL for focusing only on the Rice controversy.
The questions largely surround the surfacing of a second video recording that shows Rice striking his then-fiancee unconscious in an elevator in a hotel casino in Atlantic City, N.J. The NFL has said it did not see the video until it was released by TMZ on Monday, but a law enforcement official told The Associated Press in a story published Wednesday that he sent the video to an NFL executive five months ago.
"To bring in an insider or a quasi-insider and to call it an independent investigation and then to narrow the scope only to look at the Ray Rice incident is continuing on in this mode of minimizing, diminishing, throwing under the rug (the problem of domestic violence)…" she said, adding that she thinks the NFL is simply hoping "the media wanders away and the fans will forget.
"The fans are not going to forget this, and they’re not going to forget because Mr. Goodell is once again handling the issue completely wrong.”
O’Neill did say Goodell recently took positive steps by reaching out to the National Network To End Domestic Violence and strengthening the league’s policy against domestic violence.
"So I do see some movement,” she said. "But the overarching picture you get is of an individual who only wants do as little as he can possibly get away with, so he can go back to the business of making money in the same old way without making any changes in his organization.”