The walls are closing in on the most powerful man in sports.
There are sharper questions for commissioner Roger Goodell after the Associated Press reported the name of the NFL executive to whom a law enforcement official allegedly sent a tape of Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancee in a casino hotel elevator.
Jeffrey Miller, the league's head of security, was the reported addressee, according to the AP.
"I mailed it anonymously to Jeff Miller because he's their head of security," the anonymous law enforcement official told the AP. "I attached a note saying: 'Ray Rice elevator video. You have to see it. It's terrible.' I provided a number for a disposable cell phone and asked for confirmation that it was received. I knew there was a possibility Mr. Miller may not get the video, but I hoped it would land in the right hands."
At the very least, it landed in the hands of a woman at NFL headquarters who left a voicemail saying the video was "terrible."
Miller emphatically denied either receiving or viewing the tape, and Goodell has already denied seeing the tape. Those denials, however, are getting more and more wobbly as further information emerges.
If a tape was addressed to the NFL's head of security, and if that tape was viewed by someone in the NFL headquarters, why would it stop there? Why would the tape travel so close to the commissioner and then go no further – especially considering one staffer was reportedly alarmed by what she saw?
Goodell was asked about the tape at his news conference last week, and he deferred to his security department. Now there's more evidence his security department got the tape without even requesting it. Goodell has said his office has made efforts to see the tape but "were not granted that opportunity."
Yet it looks like that opportunity granted itself.
The NFL has hired former FBI director Robert Mueller to investigate how the league handled its own investigation into the Rice situation. But if Mueller's findings are as thorough as the Wells Report into the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal, it's hard to imagine how credibly this latest report could be explained away. It is possible the AP's source is lying, but a voicemail and a reasonable explanation for addressing a package to Miller sure holds up better at this point than Goodell's forensics.
Even if the woman in question watched the tape and then shelved it, or stuffed it into a folder, the only conclusion is gross incompetence. A commissioner who had eyes everywhere during Spygate and the bounty scandal doesn't even know there's a smoking gun between his desk and the water cooler? Goodell's prior condemnation of the New Orleans Saints – "ignorance is not an excuse" – rises to a more damning level in this scenario. If that tape was in that office, addressed to that man, and if Goodell didn't even know about it, ignorance is an understatement.
That kind of ignorance isn't good enough for the most powerful man in sports, and lying sure isn't good enough. That leaves little room for an exculpatory truth.
There is one potentially face-saving outcome – other than the AP's report proving untrue – and that is Miller shielding the shield from the tape. This would parallel the course of events for Goodell's buddy, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who explained an improper bridge closure earlier this year by insisting his staff never told him what it was doing.
We may never know if that tape showed up at NFL headquarters and who may have watched it, but never knowing is looking less and less like an acceptable end to this crisis.