The Baltimore Ravens cut running back Ray Rice on Monday, terminating his contract hours after the release of a video filmed in February appeared to show the star player striking his then-fiancée. Shortly after, the NFL dealt him a second blow — suspending him indefinitely from the football league.
The grainy video, released by TMZ Sports, apparently shows Rice and Janay Palmer, who is now married to Rice, in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino. Each hits the other before Rice knocks Palmer off her feet and into a railing. An earlier TMZ video showed Rice dragging Palmer from the elevator at Revel casino.
The NFL, which said it had not seen the latest video until Monday, suspended Rice for two games in July after the first video was released. The punishment, handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, prompted public outcry — as fans, women’s rights activists and even politicians said it was not severe enough.
"We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said on Monday. "That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today."
The 27-year-old Rice was charged with felony aggravated assault in the case, but in May he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program that allowed him to avoid jail time and could lead to the charge being purged from his record.
Rice signed a five-year, $35 million contract with the Ravens in 2012 and helped Baltimore to a Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers at the end of that season.
In a letter to all 32 NFL owners in August, Goodell admitted that Rice’s punishment was too light and outlined harsher penalties for players found guilty of domestic violence.
"My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families,” Goodell wrote. “I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values."
"I didn't get it right," he added. "Simply put, we have to do better. And we will."
First-time offenders now face a six-game suspension for domestic violence.
Additional disciplinary measures will be taken "if there are aggravating circumstances such as the presence or use of a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child," the letter said.
A second offense would result in banishment from the league, but a player would be allowed to petition for reinstatement after a year, according to a memo from Goodell's office.
Al Jazeera and wire services