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NFL Scrambling to Save Face with ‘Independent’ Investigation into Ray Rice Case

imagesFormer FBI director Robert Mueller has been hired by the NFL to investigate the NFL about the Ray Rice domestic violence case. And if that seems like a conflict of interest, it only adds to the drama of this continuously evolving story.

Mueller, who was the director of the FBI for 12 years, will have access to all NFL records, said commissioner Roger Goodell, whose reign over the nation’s top sport can be described as tenuous. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that police in Atlantic City sent to the league footage inside a casino showing Rice knock unconscious his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, and had a message from someone in the NFL office to prove it.

Goodell and the league vehemently denies that anyone there saw the footage before Monday, when TMZ released a version of the events that initially led to Rice’s two-game suspension. The releasing of the tape prompted the Baltimore Ravens, who said they had not seen the video either, to fire Rice and the NFL to dismiss the disgraceful two-game ban and offer an indefinite suspension.

Now in comes Mueller, a highly respected official, but one hired by the NFL to investigate the NFL, making cynics wonder if the fix is in. For sure, Goodell’s tenure as commissioner of the league rests in the balance.

Mueller, based in Washington, D.C., is a partner in the law firm of WilmerHale, which helped negotiate the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package with DirecTV. The firm also has represented Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, and several former members of the firm have taken positions with NFL teams.

Terry O’Neill, the president of the National Organization for Women, issued a statement late Wednesday, calling Mueller’s appointment “just window dressing.”

“The NFL does not just have a Ray Rice problem, they have a violence against women problem,” the statement read. “NOW continues to ask for Roger Goodell to resign, and for his successor to appoint an independent investigator with full authority to gather factual data about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking within the entire NFL community — not just regarding the Ray Rice incident — and to recommend real and lasting reforms.”

A league executive, speaking early Wednesday before the AP report was released, didn’t believe the Rice controversy would cost Goodell his job — unless the video was viewed before Monday.

“No,” the executive told ESPN.com, “but if Goodell and the league saw the video beforehand, he is not commissioner in March for the league meetings.”

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