In the wake of a new video showing what appears to be Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée in a hotel elevator last winter, the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens – whose running back received a mere two-game suspension from the league for the incident – have cut Rice loose.
“We had to do it. There was no other option,” a source within the Ravens organization tells PEOPLE exclusively. “We should have done it when it all came out before, and there’s going to be a lot of soul-searching as everyone reflects on how we handled this. But when the newest video came out, the decision was unanimous and final. Ray Rice had to go.”
The latest video, posted Monday by TMZ, comes three months after an initial surveillance video showed Rice dragging the apparently unconscious Janay Palmer, who is now his wife, from an Atlantic City casino hotel elevator on Feb. 15. The new video from inside the elevator shows what preceded it.
In a statement posted on NFL.com, league officials said that, until Monday, they did not see the punch video prior to deciding on Rice’s earlier two-game suspension: “We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today.”
Even so, after critics said the two-game punishment did not go far enough, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to the league’s 32 teams in a letter last month, and vowed to toughen the policies regarding player conduct.
“My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families,” Goodell wrote. “I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future reflect our values. I didn’t get it right.
“Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involved physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as longer suspension when circumstances warrant.”
He continued: “A second offense will result in banishment from the NFL. These disciplinary standards will apply to all NFL personnel.”
With his wife at his side, Rice apologized at a May 23 news conference. And again, in a July news conference, he responded to his suspension, which came with the loss of pay for a single game, by stating that his actions were “inexcusable.”
“I made the biggest mistake of my life,” he said.
Apologizing as well to his wife, he said then: “We’re in counseling. We’re taking the necessary steps to move forward.”
He added: “My job is to lead my family, my job is to lead my wife, my job is to lead in whatever I do. And if I’m not being the example, then my family crumbles.”
He also vowed to speak out against domestic violence.
“When the time is right,” he said, “we will go out there and help as many people as we can.”
• With reporting by STEVE HELLING