Goodell had 'tin ear' to Rice controversy: Agent

The National Football League lost a major opportunity to take a stand against domestic violence after a video surfaced showing Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée during an argument earlier this year, agent Leigh Steinberg told CNBC on Tuesday.

Steinberg, who's negated deals on behalf of pro football greats Troy Aikman, Steve Young and Ben Roethlisberger, stopped short of calling for N.F.L. commissioner Roger Goodell to step down, though.

"I don't there's any chance of that. The League is so powerful. Pro football, by 2-to-1, is the most popular sport in this country," Steinberg said on "Squawk on the Street."

Running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens addresses a news conference with his wife, Janay, at the Ravens training center in May in Owings Mills, Maryland.
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Running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens addresses a news conference with his wife, Janay, at the Ravens training center in May in Owings Mills, Maryland.

A previously released video showed Rice dragging an unconscious Janay Palmer from an elevator at an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino, but the new one was taken from inside the elevator.

The video, published on the website TMZ, showed Rice punching Palmer, who is now Rice's wife, and her falling face down on the elevator floor. She appeared to smack her head on the elevator railing before slumping to the ground.

After the video's release, the Baltimore Ravens issued a one-sentence statement, saying it had terminated his contract.

A short time later, the N.F.L. suspended Rice indefinitely.

An N.F.L. spokesman said the league had not seen the new video before having earlier suspending Rice for two games and issuing a $500,000 fine, a punishment widely seen as too lenient.

Read MoreNFL is scrutinized after Ray Rice suspension

To Steinberg, however, the N.F.L. had a heavy hand in sweeping the controversy under the rug.

"The victimization of the victim is something that the Baltimore Ravens were part of because they had her appear at a press conference and apologize and then they put her apology up onto their website," Steinberg said. "The problem here is that the commissioner had a tin ear. There's no way that two games is appropriate."

The arrival of the second video should be an embarrassment to Goodell, Steinberg said.

"There's nothing on that TMZ tape that was not already relayed to both the [Ravens] and to the commissioner," he said. "They said that Ray Rice explained in great detail and was transparent about the fact that he hit his then-fiancée, knocked her out, so that's all that Goodell needed to go ahead and issue much more than a two-game suspension."

Roger Goodell
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Roger Goodell

Goodell conceded afterward that "I didn't get it right," and helped pushed through changes in the league's policy for domestic abuse by players, making the sanctions much harsher.

Read MoreNFL toughens penalties for domestic violence

To Steinberg, though, Goodell's concession is too little, too late.

"Domestic violence is a major problem in this country. The N.F.L. is the most popular entertainment. It's uniquely situated to have the athletes be role models in the fight against domestic violence, not perpetrators," he said. "He had a chance to send a big message and it took not internal pressure, but the embarrassment of TMZ breaking this tape. That's not the way we should make policy in the N.F.L. We should be ahead of the curve."

A request for comment from the N.F.L. went unreturned.

UPDATE: Chad Steele, a spokesperson for the Baltimore Ravens, told CNBC via email that "We did not ask Janay to be a part of that press conference. She asked to be there."

—By CNBC's Drew Sandholm. Reuters contributed to this report.