*Originally published Saturday, May 24*
“Rather that attempting to send a message that the abuse of women is a trend that the team and the NFL will no longer stand for the Ravens became accomplices – not only to Rice’s domestic assault – but to others like it that will occur in the future.”
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Ray Rice’s Friday press conference was a sick joke.
Rice is not terribly unique. Big bad NFL players routinely thump on their girlfriends, fiancés and wives. Domestic assault, it seems, is just part of the culture surrounding professional football. What stands out about Rice’s case is that his battery of demure female was caught on tape.
Security camera footage was released by the three letter network, TMZ (which has sadly become the top reporting agency covering American sports), back in February that had been attained from an Atlantic City casino hotel. It showed Rice dragging his unconscious then fiancé out of an elevator. He was presumably attempting to squirrel her back to their room without being spotted not realizing that the eye in the sky is everywhere in a place like Atlantic City.
Soon after the TMZ video emerged word got out that police had possession of film from the casino floor which captured the blow that rendered the girl comatose. Both Rice and his betrothed, Janay, were detained by cops in A.C. since this piece of video showed the couple exchanging punches prior to Janay being knocked cold by the 212 pound professional football player. After a debriefing at police headquarters the couple returned home to Baltimore. Nothing more was heard from Ray Rice … until this past Friday.
How do you defend the indefensible? Hold a press conference, of course.
Baltimore staged a media event at their headquarters this past Friday to allow their star runner to clear the air. Rice came prepared with extensive written notes detailing his regret over the incident and filled with platitudes about how much he has learned from cocking his old lady. Rice clumsily spoke of the benefits he and Jenay have gained through counseling and apologized to everyone affected by his violence, the team, the fans, the children of America … everyone but the tiny woman who is now his wife.
The presser was nearly surreal. Jenay sat alongside her man like most wronged women do when they’re trying to help preserve his public posture, be he an athlete or a politician.
As Rice spoke the Ravens PR department Tweeted quotes from his diatribe, many of which they have since deleted from their account because they were offensive to thinking people. Perhaps Rice’s greatest gem was “I won’t call myself a failure. Failure is not getting knocked down. It’s not getting up.” Jenay, to her credit, got up. According to the Ravens PR team she feels awful though. They Tweeted, “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”
The “role” Jenay played that night was that of a woman helpless to defend herself against a muscle-bound male professional athlete. Regardless of what her involvement in the altercation might have been she was as vulnerable as a child. This is evidenced by the sight of her being dragged limp from the hotel elevator. By defending Ray Rice and by going so far as to implicate Jenay as an aggressor the Ravens exhibited the “look the other way” mentality they have become known for when it comes to the crimes their players commit.
Rather that attempting to send a message that the abuse of women is a trend that the team and the NFL will no longer stand for the Ravens became accomplices – not only to Rice’s domestic assault – but to others like it that will occur in the future.
A message must be sent.
For every assault on a woman by an NFL player that the public learns about it’s likely that there are two more that are kept quiet. Domestic abuse has been a scourge in pro football for as long as there’s been pro football. Friday’s sick joke of a press conference failed to send the message. It is now incumbent on the NFL to punish Ray Rice in an attention-grabbing way. Sometimes individuals must be made examples of. Sometimes discipline must be excessively punitive – especially in cases where the offense is as public as this one.
By exposing Donald Sterling as a blatant racist TMZ forced the NBA’s hand. The league responded with the most extreme punishment it had ever doled out – a lifetime ban and the forced sale of the LA Clippers. Ironically, it was TMZ that first exposed Rice’s abuse also. Now the NFL is on the clock. Will the league act with the same urgency that the NBA did?
Is the act of striking a woman as egregious as muttering racist things to one over the telephone? Is it not, in fact, much, much worse?
An appropriate punishment for Ray Rice would be a one year suspension from the Ravens. The Ravens themselves should be fined $1 million for being complicit in trying to justify Rice’s inexcusable behavior. Neither of these punishments even approximate the type of hammer that was brought down onto Donald Sterling but they would at least let the public know that the NFL won’t sit idly by anymore while its players abuse the weaker sex.