Goodell gets support, criticism after NFL orders new Rice probe

Fri Sep 12, 2014 12:40am EDT
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(Reuters) - A major advertiser expressed support for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday, while a women's advocacy group called for his resignation in the mounting controversy over his handling of former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice's domestic violence case.

The NFL late on Wednesday named former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead an inquiry into how the league dealt with evidence in the case, particularly security video from an elevator showing Rice knocking out his then-fiancee and now-wife Janay Palmer with a punch.

While Goodell said the National Football League never saw the tape until it was released by the TMZ website on Monday, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday that a law enforcement official said he had the tape delivered to league offices in April.

In addition, ESPN reported on Thursday that Rice told Goodell during a June meeting in the commissioner's office that he had punched Palmer in the face.

The report, which relied on four anonymous sources close to the former player, contradicts Goodell's comments in a CBS interview on Tuesday that called Rice's description of the incident "ambiguous."

Reuters could not independently confirm the report. Representatives for the NFL did not immediately respond to request for comment.

It is unclear how long Mueller will need for the investigation, leaving a cloud over the NFL at the start of a new season. But in a league with annual revenues of $9 billion, the response of advertisers could be key to Goodell's future.

Verizon Communications Chief Executive Lowell McAdam, while acknowledging the Rice episode had been disturbing, gave his backing to Goodell, calling him "a man of high integrity."

McAdam, addressing a conference on Thursday, said he did not believe "there is some conspiracy to cover this up."   Continued...

May 8, 2014; New York, NY, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on stage during the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports