On Ray Rice and the Reality of Domestic Violence

Before I give my thoughts on the release of the footage showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his now-wife in an Atlantic City elevator and the subsequent termination of his contract, allow me to show you a tweet.

That’s the Ravens' Twitter account reporting a quote from the May 28 press conference where Ray Rice apologized for assaulting his wife. The only proof at that time was his confession and a video from a security camera showing Rice dragging his unconscious then-fiancee out of an elevator. He apologized to the organization, the fans, his teammates, his coaches and his wife’s parents. Not once throughout the press conference did he apologize to his wife.

That press conference, the minimal punishment of a two-game suspension from the NFL and the rightful outrage that ensued throughout the world of football fans created a dark cloud over Ray Rice’s head. Much like clouds, however, it would be blown away soon enough. Ray Rice was a valuable fantasy football player, once upon a time. He could have been the subject of a redemption story, much like Michael Vick. Sure, there would still be a fans who hated him, but Ravens fans would move on. They want their team to win, and Ray Rice could help make that happen. It was easy to envision a depressing scenario where Ray Rice would be celebrated as he took the field in week three.

Then came the other part of the footage. This footage showed just how Ray Rice assaulted Janay Palmer. It showed his violence and what little provoked it. This footage, which was in the possession of law enforcement officials when they decided not to charge him with a crime, has now resulted in the termination of Rice’s contract with the Ravens and another round of rightful disgust and vitriol directed at Rice, the NFL, the Ravens and anybody who would defend Rice’s actions. A question has emerged from all the noise, however: Why did this take so long?

Reportedly, neither the NFL nor the Ravens had seen this section of the video until today, and they took Rice at his word regarding the severity of his assault. So what did Rice say that allowed him to keep his job? Several reports have said Rice claimed Janay assaulted him first. If that had ended up being the truth, would that have made his alleged reaction OK? Actually, let me ask something different: What did the Ravens, the NFL and Ray Rice’s defenders think domestic violence look like?

That punch to Janay Palmer can be found in homes, apartments, alleyways, cars and elsewhere across the planet. It’s true. Are we to believe that punch has never been thrown by another football player that currently has a spot on an NFL team? In a culture that already inflates the importance of individuals and that seems to breed the idea of the “free pass,” it is all too easy to believe that there are far worse crimes committed by players that NFL teams have and will continue to sweep under the rug. The Ravens and the NFL were looking for any reason not to be deprived of a Super Bowl-winning cash-cow star running back. Rice claiming Palmer hit him first, and that was apparently good enough. Even more disturbing is the fact that it’s good enough for many, many people. For policemen responding to a 911 call. For a jury of 12 people and a judge. For friends and family of the accused, and, often more tragic, of the victim as well.

So let me ask again: What did the Ravens, the NFL and Rice’s defenders think domestic violence look like?

If they didn’t know before, they know now. So do you.