(Adds comments from NFL commissioner Goodell)
Sept 9 (Reuters) - Ray Rice’s wife defended the former Baltimore Ravens running back on Tuesday after a video showed him knocking her out and assailed the media for its handling of an incident that put the National Football League on the defensive.
Janay Rice, who married Ray Rice shortly after the February incident, accused the media of using the episode to pump up audience ratings.
“No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options (sic) from the public has caused my family,” she wrote in an Instagram post about the incident. “To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret everyday is a horrible thing.”
Ray Rice, a top running back in the NFL until last season, was released by the Ravens on Monday and suspended indefinitely by the league after the graphic video went viral.
In breaking his silence after the video’s release, Rice was quoted as saying: “I‘m just holding strong for my wife and kid, that’s all I can do right now,” according to a tweet from CNN’s Rachel Nichols.
Security camera footage shows Rice punching Janay inside an elevator at a New Jersey casino, her head hitting a rail before she crumples to the floor. An earlier video only shows Rice dragging the unconscious woman from the elevator.
The disclosure has raised the heat on the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, for being too lenient on the star player when it initially suspended him for two games and fined him $500,000. It has also raised questions about why the league had not seen the graphic footage before Monday.
When asked in a CBS News interview on Tuesday whether the NFL needed to see the second video to make a decision on suspending Rice, Goodell said “we certainly didn‘t”.
“What we saw yesterday was extremely clear, is extremely graphic and it was sickening. And that’s why we took the action we took yesterday,” Goodell said.
The incident is the latest in a series of embarrassments for the league, which generates billions of dollars a year in revenues and ranks as one of the world’s most successful sports empires.
Despite Goodell’s efforts to stem the tide and contain the damage to the NFL’s image, at least 21 players have been arrested this year, with charges ranging from public intoxication to weapons violations.
The NFL insisted it had not seen the new video of Rice until Monday, when it was released by the website TMZ. It said it was never informed of its existence while it conducted a thorough investigation of the incident earlier this year.
“We had not seen any videotape of what occurred in the elevator. We assumed there was a video,” Goodell told CBS. “We asked for video. But we were never granted that opportunity.”
The NFL, in a statement, said the video was not made available despite requests to New Jersey law enforcement for “any and all information about the incident, including any video that may exist.”
Before the new video emerged, Goodell, who had a reputation as a no-nonsense commissioner who would not tolerate unacceptable off-the-field behavior, conceded he “didn’t get it right” when he initially suspended Rice for two games.
He has since toughened the sanctions for NFL players who commit domestic violence.
Rice was indicted by a grand jury in March on third-degree aggravated assault but the charge was dropped because Janay declined to testify against him. He agreed to court-supervised counseling. Prosecutors said on Monday Rice would face no further charges if he completed the program.
Goodell told CBS he would not rule out that Rice’s suspension would mean he would never play in the NFL again.
“He would have to make sure we are fully confident that he is addressing this issue clearly,” Goodell said. “He has paid a price for the actions that he has already taken.”
While Rice’s wife was criticizing his detractors, Rice’s sponsor, his former team and its fans took steps to distance themselves from the one-time star player.
Nike Inc said it was dropping its endorsement deal with Rice. The value of the deal was not immediately clear.
The Ravens, meanwhile, said they would let fans exchange their Ray Rice jerseys at its stadium stores. It declined to disclose the terms of the swap.
A Baltimore pizza parlor was offering a free pizza and said it would donate $2.70, after Rice’s number 27, to a local shelter for every jersey it received.
“These jerseys will save us money on toilet paper this week,” Hersh’s Pizza and Drinks said on its Facebook page. (Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Additional reporting by Peter Cooney in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott, Dan Grebler and Eric Walsh)