The attorney leading the NFL players’ union investigation into the Ray Rice domestic violence case tells The Associated Press the league and the Baltimore Ravens have not been cooperating.
Richard Craig Smith told the AP that the NFL has not provided documents and witnesses requested by the NFLPA’s investigators, while the Ravens have refused any cooperation with similar requests.
“I am interested in the facts, and if we get cooperation from all the parties that were involved, we will have an understanding of what happened,” Smith said. “We cannot accept public statements that call for transparency, candor and openness and then not allow the investigators to do their jobs.”
The union’s investigation, like a similar probe organized by the NFL, isn’t a law enforcement inquiry and the parties involved aren’t under any legal obligation to comply with requests. The league and the union, however, have each said separately that they wanted answers in the case.
A spokesman for the NFL couldn’t comment immediately when reached while a spokesman for the Ravens didn’t immediately return a phone message.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely Sept. 8 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, once video of Rice hitting his then-fiancee was released publicly.
The players’ union hired Smith, a former federal prosecutor, one month ago to oversee its investigation into how the Ravens and the league handled themselves during the events that led to the suspension, as well as how the team handled issues like due process.
Separately, the NFL hired former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to conduct a probe into how the league handled evidence as it investigated the claims against Rice. NFL owners plan to make the findings of Mueller’s report public.
Smith said the union’s investigation is important to ensuring the process was fair, and that requires transparency.
“If the NFL is genuinely concerned about fixing the issues that led to an admitted mistake, then they should be honest and forthright about what they knew and when they knew it,” Smith said. “We want both our team and Bob Mueller’s team each to be able to conduct a thorough review of all the relevant facts.”
Smith, the head of regulatory and governmental investigation for the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, represented the union during the Saints bounty scandal that resulted in four players being reinstated from suspension through an appeal in 2012.
Goodell originally suspended Rice for two games. Once the video became public, the Ravens cut Rice, and the league banned him indefinitely. The league considered the video to be new evidence, giving Goodell the authority to further suspend Rice.
The players’ union appealed Rice’s suspension, saying he should not be punished twice. Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones was selected by the Commissioner and the players’ union to hear the appeal. A person familiar with the case told the AP that Judge Jones told Goodel that he should testify at the hearing, which will be held Nov. 5-6.
The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because details haven’t been made public, said Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s Vice President for Labor Policy, league attorney Kevin Manara and Security Chief Jeffery Miller also are expected to testify along with Ravens President Dick Cass and General Manager Ozzie Newsome. Rice plans to testify and his wife, Janay, might testify, the person said.
(ROB MAADDI, AP Pro Football Writer)