NFL executive and former player Troy Vincent told a Senate Commerce Committee that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell mishandled the domestic violence case involving Ray Rice, and that a punishment should have come before the second security tape was released.

The tape, which featured Ray Rice brutally punching his then-fiancee and knocking her unconscious, pushed the NFL to indefinitely suspend Rice. But Vincent admitted that the NFL had enough information to make a decision much earlier.

Vincent, the league's executive vice president for football operations, also teared up while explaining his personal connection to domestic violence. The former NFL star said he grew up in a home where his mother was routinely beaten, and that domestic violence was a "way of life."

Vincent's testimony was received coldly by the senators, who slammed Goodell himself for not attending the hearing. The commissioners of the NBA, NHL, and MLB -- all absent -- were also criticized.

And while Vincent's story was powerful, it did little to mask the big revelation of the meeting.

Vincent is the first of eight professional sports representatives who will be speaking at the meetings, which will bring the NFL and other U.S. leagues under the microscope for how they handle domestic violence and other matters of personal conduct.

The NFL Players Association is one of the organizations which will be represented in that hearing, although the union had initially declined to do so. After the union decided to participate, Senator Jay Rockefeller issued a harshly worded statement that held the NFLPA accountable for its earlier resistance:

"Until this morning, the NFL Players Association refused to testify at this hearing. I'm glad they ultimately saw this is an important discussion, but it seemed to require singling out their unusual refusal before NFLPA reversed course and agreed to participate."

It's unclear, though, if the Senate will ultimately take any action on the matter. Some aspects of the hearing seemed to be more about putting on a good show than coming away with any worthwhile gains:

You've got to hand it to the NFL and U.S. Senate: They both know how to run a good smoke-and-mirrors act.

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