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0000 Mike

Mike Preston is a sports columnist for The Baltimore Sun, focusing on the Ravens and lacrosse. The Kenwood High and Towson University alum has been writing for The Sun since 1987 and has been a columnist since 2000.

“Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti better not be lying.

He left himself open to be put in the same class as former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling on Monday after a nearly 50-minute press conference in which he disputed a recently published report by ESPN challenging the integrity of his franchise.

Bisciotti was what you want an owner to be in this situation. He was feisty, defiant, combative and apologetic at times, and repeated his denial of not having seen the second video of running back Ray Rice his wife in an elevator until seven months after the incident.

If he wasn’t telling the truth he will have lost all integrity, and go down in history with other disgraced owners.

All respect will have been lost.

Bisciotti was compelling Monday. He sat on the stage in a leather chair armed with a letter to fans disputing 15 points in the ESPN article.

He took questions during an allotted time and then asked for more in overtime. His arguments were impressive especially where he released his text messages verbatim, not the partial ones in the story which suggested he was possibly paying Rice off with a future job in the organization.

Advantage Bisciotti.

He cleared up some things about any disparity in previous accounts of the incident given by team president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome, and denied, along with John Harbaugh, that the Super Bowl-winning coach wanted to cut Rice after seeing the first tape, which was in the ESPN report.

Cass and Newsome, in public statements, as well as Bisciotti denied that they had spoken with commissioner Roger Goodell or anyone else at the NFL suggesting Rice only be given a two-game suspension or any other punishment.

Was Bisciotti telling the truth?

I don’t know for sure, but his news conference Monday was unprecedented for this owner, and it’s hard to understand why he would leave himself so open to a major fall if he wasn’t. Bisciotti took on ESPN, the World Wide leader in sports.

National media descended on The Castle Monday.

If Bisciotti was lying then there will be hell to pay, especially for a franchise that has already been under so much scrutiny. Bisciotti might be impulsive, but he can’t be that stupid.

Can he?

I still believe some in the Ravens organization saw the second video, but the only real question remaining was if Bisciotti or any off his top lieutenants had seen it.

The Ravens handled this situation poorly, but they did exactly what any other major corporation in America would do. They went into a bunker mentality and tried to protect their investment. It was wrong, and maybe they have learned.

“We have a lot of planning to do,” Bisciotti said. “I can assure that the flow of information between security and Ozzie and John and I will be a whole lot more detailed, documented, recorded if we need to. If a situation like this came up again, trust me, we’re prepared. If it happens again a year from now, not only will be more prepared, but I think it’s pretty clear the league is going to handle it a whole lot different.”

One national magazine website put the Ravens in the same class with the Clippers. There was a question Monday about the league forcing Bisciotti to sell his team. There were concerns about Ravens employees being fired in the future.

“I am thoroughly aware of what the league expects the team to do in instances like this and the people in my organization did their jobs – their jobs as they are defined and as they are expected to be met by the league. Nobody is losing a job here. I’m very confident about that,” Bisciotti said.

Bisciotti was probably correct Monday when he talked about the heavy influence of Rice’s people in the report . It had every one close to the former Pro Bowl running back talking except for Rice.

He did get bad advice. Before last week, he had a good chance of getting back in the league. But once Bisciotti’s text messages were released in the story, there are two options remaining now, either shuffling off to Buffalo or joining the Raiders in Oakland.

Lost in all this commotion is the real victim, Janay Rice, who was knocked unconscious by her-then fiancee on Feb. 15.

But if the Ravens stay true to the commitment Bisciotti promised Monday and the NFL decides to clean up its act as well, then maybe as a society we can get a better hold on the domestic abuse problem.

But if there is evidence that Bisciotti, Newsome or Cass saw that second tape then the owner might as well sell the team.

All of his integrity, everything his team tried to regain Monday, will be lost.”

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