UPDATE, 4: 55 PM: In lieu of comedy bits or narration by Showtime star Don Cheadle over a Jay-Z tune sung by Rihanna, CBS kicked off its Thursday NFL package tonight with an update on the league scandal that cost Ray Rice his Baltimore Ravens running back gig and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell his credibility and ultimately perhaps his job.
Here’s what viewers learned:
— CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley plays catch-up for viewers who’ve been hiding under a flat rock all day: The NFL has drafted (Pelley’s word) former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate the league’s handling of the case. And the AP has reported that an anonymous law enforcement source insists he/she sent tape of Rice knocking out his fiancee in an elevator to an NFL exec in April. This is important because Goodell has insisted no one at the league saw that tape until Monday, when it was made public by TMZ. We see a clip of Goodell telling CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell that no one from the NFL had seen the tape until Monday — to his knowledge.
— There are 16 female U.S. senators. We know that because they’ve written Goodell to tell him how shocked they are by the whole thing and suggested the NFL adopt a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence.
–At league headquarters in NYC, NFL Network’s Judy Battista (no conflict of interest there) tells viewers the league wants this investigation it has ordered to — investigate. And team owners are concerned about how the “slow trickle” of stories in the past few days is “damaging” to the league’s image.
— CBS Sports’ Tracy Wolfson, reporting from in front of some door, says the Baltimore Ravens, who are playing tonight, might be galvanized as a team by the Rice/NFL scandal, and this might bring the team closer together as they get “through this trying time.”
— CBS has reached out to Rice and Goodell to ask them about this and that; neither gentleman got back to the network.
— O’Donnell acknowledges that ESPN is reporting Rice told Goodell in June that he’d punched his fiancée in the elevator. That’s important because O’Donnell was not seen in CBS News’ two nights of sit-down with Goodell asking him exactly what he had asked Rice after news of the beating first got out; TMZ released an earlier video of Rice dragging his fiancee out of the elevator but not showing the KO. O’Donnell also was not seen asking the commissioner exactly what Rice told him had occurred in the elevator that caused his fiancee to be unconscious, and him to drag her out, face down, dropping her on the floor. Goodell was seen telling O’Donnell during that interview was that when he met with Rice, the information he received was “ambiguous” — hence the two-game suspension.
— Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti tells sportscaster James Brown that if all the “shortcomings” of the team and the league turns this into a “seminal moment for domestic violence and the way we handle it as a society” he won’t feel it’s a “burden for us to be that poster boy” and that while he’s “embarrassed about it” now, in five years, “I’ll be proud of it.”
PREVIOUS, 3 PM: CBS has dumped plans to open tonight’s Thursday NFL game with Don Cheadle narration over the Jay-Z tune “Run This Town” sung by Rihanna. CBS pregame plans now include more coverage of the Rice/NFL story from CBS News, among other elements. CBS decided to change the tone and format of the pregame show, which also included comedy elements, to a more serious one, including a report form CBS News, an interview with the Baltimore Ravens owner, and comments from Norah O’Donnell, who did CBS News’ exclusive interview on the Rice situation with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that aired in two parts earlier this week.
The “Run This Town” track had been licensed for use during Thursday night NFL games and the NFL announced it earlier this month, saying, “CBS Sports and NFL Network will open each game of Thursday Night Football in 2014 with Jay-Z’s Grammy Award-winning song, “Run This Town” featuring megastar Rihanna.”
Rihanna is among the music performers reportedly in talks with the NFL about performing at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. She also is maybe one of the best known survivors of domestic violence — famously becoming a no-show for CBS’ own broadcast of the Grammys back in 2009 because she’d been beaten up by boyfriend Chris Brown at a pre-Grammy party the previous night.
The idea of using a track featuring Rihanna seemed particularly tone-deaf today to the media — who had been saying so this afternoon — given that tonight’s game features the Baltimore Ravens — the team for which Ray Rice worked until he was cut this week when TMZ released the tape showing the former running back knocking out his then-fiancee in a casino elevator back in February. It also seemed a lousy idea, given that the NFL has just hired the former FBI head to investigate the NFL’s handling of the elevator incident — including Rice’s initial fine of two games, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s interview with CBS News the day after the tape went public, insisting the league did not have access to that video when he gave Rice his initial wrist slap. Only, the AP reported the next day a law enforcement source saying he gave a tape of the elevator KO to the NFL in April.
The track will be used at the open of Thursday NFL games going forward — a package ends with a Week 16 Saturday doubleheader on December 20. It will be part of a customized open each week highlighting the teams and storylines, featuring Cheadle’s narration as well as the music sung by Rihanna.
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