What did they really mean? An Analysis of the Behavior of NFL Statements on Rice



Public statements by the NFL in early September raise serious questions about its handling of the Ray Rice case, according to a study by a behavioral assessment firm called Business Intelligence Advisors. The company pioneered techniques developed for the national intelligence community to analyze companies for Wall Street in 2001. Large investors use BIA’s behavioral and linguistic analysis to review statements made by management. company and thus make better investment decisions in these companies.

On September 12, to demonstrate how its techniques could be implemented on other topics as well, the Boston-based firm applied its tools to statements made by the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. Although BIA warns that the results are purely the opinion of the company, according to the analysis “it appears that the NFL and the Ravens knew of the gang’s existence, but chose to ignore it or not. aggressively pursue “. The firm’s report is reproduced in full below.

(No) Go further

“We asked law enforcement for all information on the incident, including any video that may exist. We spoke to members of the New Jersey State Police and repeatedly contacted the Police Department. from Atlantic City and the Atlantic County District Attorney’s Office. This video was not made available to us and no one in our office saw it until yesterday. “ – NFL spokesperson, September 8, 2014

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The NFL remains convinced that no one in the commissioner’s office saw the videotape of Ray Rice and her then-fiancé, Janay Palmer, in the elevator at the Atlantic City casino. However, when analyzed from a behavioral perspective, the NFL statement highlights the extent to which it understood the potential existence of additional video evidence and the level of effort it has put in to get them.

NFL Says It Has Had A Dialogue With New Jersey State Police (“Has Speaking With NJSP Members”), But Also Says It Has Only Contacted Police Department “Several Times” of Atlantic City and the Atlantic County District Attorney’s Office. First, the qualifier “several times” obscures how often the NFL has actually tried to contact the two Atlantic City offices (several times is two or more, but perhaps only once for each institution). Also, when he talks about his efforts to contact the Atlantic City PD and prosecutor’s offices, the phrase “reached out” is quite different from the “we spoke to” characterization used in connection with the NJSP. By not explicitly commenting on whether the league has managed to make contact with either, her statement suggests that she has never spoken to anyone in the organizations in Atlantic City. This is particularly relevant given that a spokesperson for the NJSP said that “the investigations into the incidents on the casino floor are handled by the NJSP, but it happened in the elevator and was handled by the [Atlantic City Police Department].

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Additionally, by using “tense” language, the NFL tries to give the impression that it has proactively sought out as much information as possible about the Ray Rice incident, hoping the public will conclude that its efforts have been successful. been thwarted by the insensitive authorities of Atlantic City. (We note that as of now, there is strong evidence that this was not the case based on a voicemail message from an NFL representative acknowledging receipt of the tape through his office.) However, the NFL’s attempt to appear proactive is weakened by its passive characterization. that the video “was not made available” to the league, in its attempt to shift the onus of disclosure to authorities in New Jersey and Atlantic City.

Finally, the fact that the NFL refers to its efforts as “any information about the incident,” which it then defines as including “any video that may exist,” underscores its attempt to avoid any acknowledgment that league officials knew. or suspected that more video was available.

Collectively, these behaviors suggest that the NFL was aware of the likely existence of other video evidence and that its efforts to elicit it were not as aggressive and persistent as it is now trying to make it appear.

Always in defense

A subsequent interview with Roger Goodell raises the same issues as the NFL statement we reviewed above.

“We have asked for it on several occasions. And on several occasions we have been told no. I understand that there may be legal restrictions on their sharing with us. And we’ve heard that from attorneys general and former attorneys general. – Roger Goodell, CBS interview September 9, 2014

In the latter case, Goodell tries to convince the public that, despite its best efforts, the NFL could not get the tape because there “may be legal restrictions”. He reinforces this assertion by citing “attorneys general and former attorneys general”. Taken literally, however, Goodell’s assertion is nothing more than speculation, given that he only declares his “understanding” of what he admits to be uncertain and unconfirmed legal restrictions (“may be “). From a behavioral standpoint, this represents an effort by Goodell to support the reasonableness of his office’s failure to obtain the tape despite his aggressive pursuit, by implying that it would have been illegal – while carefully avoiding to have to declare one or the other directly.

“I don’t know how TMZ or any other website gets their information. We are particularly dependent on the police. It is the most reliable. This is the most credible. And we do not seek to obtain this information from sources which are not credible. “ – Roger Goodell, CBS interview September 9, 2014

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In the same interview, Goodell is asked how TMZ got the second tape when the NFL couldn’t. Goodell points out that they are “particularly dependent on the police” and that they “do not seek to obtain this information from sources which are not credible. In addition to shifting the burden from the NFL to “law enforcement,” this response is also Goodell’s attempt to create the impression that the NFL operates to a higher set of standards. By that, he suggests that the NFL’s adherence to these standards is responsible for the fact that they didn’t get the tape before it was released. In contrasting this with TMZ, which he subtly denounces as relying on sources “that are not credible”, he also perhaps expects to have to respond to the revelation that someone in the NFL office admitted having received and viewed the tape, since there is an indication that it was sent outside of “official” channels.

Same game of the Ravens

“Absolutely,” Harbaugh said when asked if he was happy with the level of diligence the Ravens took to see him. “I don’t know why that would be such a hard thing to figure out. It was not made available to us. It wasn’t there for us. As far as I know, yes, it wasn’t something we had ever seen or had access to. “ – article cbssports.com, September 8, 2014

John Harbaugh, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, gave a press conference after the release of Ray Rice’s elevator tape that followed the same manual as that of the NFL commissioner’s office. Responding to reporters’ questions about the team’s diligence efforts, Harbaugh says the tape “was not made available” to the team, suggesting that it was not possible to ‘get the band no matter how hard they try. However, Harbaugh never discusses what kind of effort the team made to obtain the tape or other evidence. He only states that “it wasn’t there”, offering nothing to suggest the team took serious steps to get it.

More concerning behavior is Harbaugh’s need to go on the offensive in demeaning the reporter for asking why the team didn’t or couldn’t get the tape. He does this by saying, “I don’t know why this is such a difficult thing to understand.” This signals Harbaugh’s desire to put an end to public scrutiny of this matter, possibly out of fears that the actions taken by the team to pursue the case may not be able to resist it.



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