Matt Lauer knows ... the first morning show to interview Ray Rice WINS -- and that's why the "Today" show ... and everyone else in morning TV is officially in on the chase to lock down the NFL star.
Matt played coy when we asked if he had already reached out to Rice -- but the answer was written all over his face.
He also explained, "Ray Rice has a story to tell that he wants to get out there." It's clear, Lauer wants to be the one to help him tell that story.
"I think anybody who does what I do for a living would wanna sit down with either of them [Ray and Roger Goodell] and Janay as well."
Ray has texted back and forth with some ESPN reporters over the past few days -- but it's unclear if he's committed to an on-camera interview ... yet.
Ray Rice Scandal
Ex-FBI Honcho to Probe NFL's Actions
9/10/2014 8:35 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
The NFL has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to run an investigation into how the league handled evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence case.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Mueller's probe will be overseen by Giants owner John Mara and Steelers owner Art Rooney. Goodell says Mueller will have access to all NFL records.
The announcement came hours after a league source told us ... "no one" at the NFL's various offices had received the video of Ray Rice punching his wife -- refuting an AP story that said a league exec was sent the clip back in April.
Goodell has maintained he never saw the video before TMZ Sports posted it on Monday.
AP Story Wrong
NO ONE Here Saw Video Before Monday
9/10/2014 4:28 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
A high-ranking NFL source tells TMZ ... "No one at the league" saw the Ray Rice elevator video until TMZ Sports posted it Monday.
The Associated Press claims someone from law enforcement sent a DVD of the video to an NFL exec in April ... months before Roger Goodell handed down the 2-game suspension.
Up to now ... the NFL has hedged, saying to their knowledge no one in the organization got the tape. But now an NFL source tells us in no uncertain terms ... no one at the league got it. And the source goes on to define the league as 3 things -- NFL headquarters, NFL Films in New Jersey and the NFL Network in L.A.
The source goes on to say the NFL headquarters has around 475 employees at its NYC headquarters, and "no one at these 3 offices saw it."
TMZ Sports is NOT vouching for the NFL's position. We're merely telling you what they're saying.
He's DEAD WRONG
Casino NOT Prohibited from Turning Over Video
9/10/2014 2:07 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Roger Goodell made a very bad assumption when he chose not to contact the casino to request a copy of the Ray Rice elevator video -- because law enforcement tells TMZ Sports ... that would have been perfectly legal.
Goodell said Tuesday he did not contact the Revel Casino because it was his understanding "the casino is prohibited from turning over material to a third party during a law enforcement proceeding" -- namely the criminal case against Rice.
But Paul Loriquet, the Director of Communications for the New Jersey Attorney General, tells TMZ bluntly, "No, it's not illegal."
To be clear ... our question was very specific: "Is it illegal for the casino to show or provide this material to a private entity in an ongoing investigation." His answer, "No, it's not illegal."
Mind you ... the NFL has some of the best lawyers in the country. It's inconceivable they didn't do basic legal research to either validate or invalidate Goodell's assumptions.
TMZ broke the story ... Goodell NEVER even bothered to ask the casino for the video -- something he's now acknowledged.
SORRY FOR RAY RICE COMMENTS
'I Hadn't Seen Video'
9/10/2014 2:03 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Floyd Mayweather claims he hadn't seen the new elevator footage of Ray Rice before he went after the NFL for not sticking by their 2 game suspension ... and now he's apologizing to the league.
"I was just getting word from people that there was a video out there. I didn't know because I'm training for a fight," Mayweather said.
"If I offended anyone, I apologize."
Just one problem ... when he made his original comments, Floyd said he HAD seen the video.
Mayweather had ripped the NFL for changing Rice's 2-game suspension to an indefinite one once the new video came to light. He claimed the league should have stuck to it's original ruling.
Besides the comments about the NFL, Mayweather had also said that Ray was not the worst wife-beater in the country ... his incident just happened to be caught on tape.
Mayweather didn't address that comment specifically in his mea culpa -- but did say when it comes to domestic violence ... "I'm not perfect, I make mistakes and I don't condone that at all."
Ray Rice Case
Report: An NFL Executive
Got the Punch Video in April
9/10/2014 2:01 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
An NFL executive got the video of Ray Rice punching Janay way back in April -- and the exec got it from someone in law enforcement ... according to a new report.
The Associated Press is saying a source claims he sent a copy of the video -- first posted by TMZ Sports on Monday -- to the NFL exec, and even got a voicemail from a NFL offices phone number confirming receipt of the video on April 9.
The AP says the source actually played the 12-second VM for them -- and a female voice is heard saying thanks for sending the video and described it as "terrible."
Here's what's curious -- why would the law enforcement official, who admits he was not authorized to share the video, leave his phone number with someone in the NFL ... therefore allowing the leak to be traced back to him?
The NFL is sticking to its story, telling TMZ ... "We have no knowledge of this. We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public. We will look into it."
Congress to Goodell:
Stop BS'ing America
Come Clean On Ray Rice Tape
9/10/2014 9:55 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
The United States Congress has inserted itself in the Ray Rice scandal ... the House Judiciary Committee has just fired off a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ... demanding that he come clean.
The letter -- signed by 12 members of the Committee and obtained by TMZ Sports -- notes that Goodell has said he had requested the video but never got it. But the Committee is skeptical, writing, "To our knowledge the public has not been informed as to specifically how and in what context the request was made, and specifically how relevant law enforcement responded."
TMZ has reported ... Goodell's request was to law enforcement but NOT the Casino, which would have gladly anted up the video. And we reported Rice's lawyer had a copy.
The Committee goes on, "Nor has there been a full explanation as to whether the video was requested of others, such as Mr. Rice's attorney or the casino where the incident occurred (and if not, why not), or whether any employees, agents, or consultants of the league or any of its teams outside of your office had access of the video prior to September 8."
The Committee is demanding "greater transparency and explanations on these matters."
DON'T FIRE GOODELL
... Here's Why
9/10/2014 9:21 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
THE JOKES BEGIN
Gilbert Gottfried Zings NFL Star
9/10/2014 8:34 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Too soon? Apparently not ... according to Gilbert Gottfried who finally decided to put Ray Rice in the comedy crosshairs.
"Obviously Ray Rice misunderstood me when I said 'She's hot, you should definitely hit that!'" ... Gilbert tweeted.
Cracking jokes on timely news stories is kinda Gilbert's thing -- and he also knows there can be consequences ... like when he was fired from his job as the voice of the AFLAC duck back in 2011 after joking about the tsunami in Japan.
As for Ray Rice, the question we're asking in the office -- think Joan Rivers woulda beat Gottfried to the joke?
GOODELL HAS 'CREDIBILITY ISSUES'
Should Call Condoleezza for Help
9/10/2014 8:13 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Senator John McCain says Roger Goodell has serious "credibility issues" ... and should get Condoleezza Rice on the phone ASAP to help clean up his mess.
McCain was out in D.C. Tuesday when he was asked how he felt about the Ray Rice video and how the NFL was handling the situation -- and that's when McCain fired the shot at Goodell.
As for talk that Condoleezza could replace Goodell as NFL Commish, McCain doesn't exactly sign off on that -- but says Rice "would be a good person for [Goodell] to call in and have a discussion with."
He adds, "I think she could help him."
FYI -- Condoleezza is a huge football fan and has expressed interest in the NFL job before. She's currently on the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.
As for McCain, he took one last parting shot ... at his beloved Arizona Diamondbacks.
Ray Rice Isn't the Worst Wife Beater
... He Just Got Caught
9/10/2014 6:45 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Floyd Mayweather says Ray Rice is far from the WORST of the domestic abusers in America -- only problem is that Ray got caught on video.
Mayweather -- who spent time in jail for beating up his baby mama a few years ago -- spoke to Fight Hub TV and said he's pulling for Rice ... "I wish something positive out of the situation."
And that's when Floyd tried to explain why Ray's attack wasn't that bad compared to other wife-beaters -- "[There are] a lot worse things that go on in other people's households also ... it's just not caught on video."
There's more ... when asked about his own domestic abuse case -- Mayweather used the O.J. Simpson defense to try to explain why he was wrongly convicted a few years ago.
"I'm pretty sure that with my situation, no bumps, no bruises, no nothing ... with OJ and Nicole, you seen pictures. With Chris Brown and Rihanna, you seen pictures. With Ochocinco and Evelyn, you seen pictures."
So according to Floyd's logic -- pics ... or it didn't happen.
I'm Not Getting Fired
Over Ray Rice Debacle
9/10/2014 6:12 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he does NOT expect to be fired for the way he handled the Ray Rice situation ... claiming he's "used to criticism."
Goodell spoke with Norah O'Donnell on CBS News Tuesday night -- and he assured her his job as the head of the league is safe.
Sure it is.
And get this ... even after he saw the video from OUTSIDE the elevator, Goodell told O'Donnell it was "ambiguous what actually happened."
O'Donnell shot back -- "But what was ambiguous about her laying unconscious on the floor being dragged out by her feet?"
"There was nothing ambiguous about that," Goodell admitted ... "That was the result that we saw. We did not know what led up to that. We did not know the details of that."
Yeah, but you know where you could've found the answers??? THE CASINO!!!!!
We Pursued Elevator Video
... But Gave Up
9/9/2014 5:09 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti says the team DID try to obtain the Ray Rice elevator video from the Revel Hotel & Casino ... but were initially shot down ... and simply gave up.
Bisciotti just penned a letter to fans ... saying, "You deserve an explanation" -- and spells out how the team handled the Rice situation from the start.
In his letter, Bisciotti says ... "We contacted the casino management and asked if there was video of the incident from inside the elevator that we could see. The casino would not share such video."
He claims the Ravens then contacted police and prosecutors -- but were shut down then, too.
But Bisciotti says the team's hunt for the video officially ended in March -- when Ray was charged with aggravated assault.
"At this point, we decided to defer action until completion of the court proceedings. We stopped seeking to view or obtain a copy of the video. We halted our fact-finding."
Bisciotti admits ... "That was a mistake on our part."
The police had seen video from inside the elevator. The prosecutor and the judge, who had also seen such video, allowed Ray into the program that would eventually clear him of the assault charge.
The Ravens owner says the team did not see the footage from inside the elevator until Sept. 8th -- when TMZ Sports posted it -- and team honchos made a quick decision to fire Rice.
"Seeing that video changed everything. We should have seen it earlier. We should have pursued our own investigation more vigorously. We didn’t and we were wrong."
Bisciotti concludes his letter ... "I am sorry we let you down."