The National Football League's story about how it handled the Ray Rice domestic violence situation may be further unraveling.
The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that an unnamed law enforcement official sent an NFL executive the video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in April, months before it was released by TMZ. The report contradicts the claims of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that no one in the league office had seen the footage before it became public on Monday.
"We have no knowledge of this," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN in response to the report. "We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it."
Goodell had insisted on Tuesday that "no one in the NFL, to my knowledge" had seen the video of Rice punching his then-fiancee and now wife, Janay Palmer, in the elevator of an Atlantic City, N.J. casino until Monday, despite requesting it from law enforcement officials.
"We assumed that there was a video," Goodell told Norah O'Donnell of "CBS This Morning" during his first interview after the shocking video made headlines and led to calls for his resignation. "We asked for video. But we were never granted that opportunity."
In a letter to NFL team owners sent on Wednesday, Goodell again claimed that the NFL did not see the video until this week.
"First, we did not see video of what took place inside the elevator until it was publicly released on Monday. When the new video evidence became available, we acted promptly and imposed an indefinite suspension on Mr. Rice," he wrote.
According to the law enforcement official who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, an NFL executive was sent a DVD containing the footage of Rice striking Palmer -- now Janay Rice -- in the elevator during the February incident. In a 12-second voicemail from April 9, receipt of the footage was confirmed by someone at an NFL office number, reported The Associated Press.
"You're right. It's terrible," a female voice reportedly said in the voicemail.
Rice was arrested in February following the incident at the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City and eventually pleaded not guilty to a third-degree charge of aggravated assault. He avoided standing trial and was accepted into a pre-trial intervention program.
Shortly after the February incident, TMZ released surveillance footage that showed Rice dragging a seemingly unconscious Palmer out of the elevator. The NFL has claimed it had only seen this footage when it punished Rice with a two-game suspension in July. Within hours of TMZ releasing the second video of what occurred inside the elevator on Monday, the Baltimore Ravens terminated Rice's contract and the NFL announced that his initial two-game suspension had been changed to an indefinite ban.
While the initial two-game suspension for Rice was widely criticized in July, the outrage directed toward the NFL has only increased since the release of the footage from inside the elevator on Monday, despite the increased suspension and Goodell's attempts at explaining the league's actions and inaction. Even before the bombshell report from The Associated Press, ESPN's Keith Olbermann and the National Organization For Women were among those who had called on Goodell to resign.
In response to The Associated Press report, Olbermann altered his call to action, slightly, while addressing Goodell directly during a segment on his eponymous ESPN2 program on Wednesday.
"You have already forfeited your privilege of resigning because to restore just the slightest credibility to the den of liars, CYA specialists and investigators whose job it is to bury whatever they actually find, the owners and the NFL need to publicly and loudly fire you," Olbermann said.