Video or it Didn’t Happen: The Ray Rice Story

Editor’s Note: The following is based on my opinion and my opinion alone.

By now, everyone has seen the atrocious video of three-time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice viciously punching and knocking out his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in a hotel elevator. And by now, everyone has also heard that the Baltimore Ravens have terminated his contract and the NFL has suspended him from playing in the league indefinitely.

But remember, even though the video is relatively new to the public and the NFL (so it claims), the events are not. Ray Rice hit his fiancee, was arrested, and subsequently indicted for third-degree aggravated assault on March 27. This was a confirmed fact. Rice admitted it. Rice’s fiancee attested to it. And eventually, the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged it and levied a suspension on July 24 that would keep Rice from playing in the first two games of the 2014 NFL season. There was never a need for actual video to prove what happened or to eventually force the NFL to initially “discipline” Rice. But that’s what it took for anybody to actually do anything about it.

Why?

No one learned anything by the video being released. Not the fans, not the NFL, not the Ravens, nobody. To me, this is the second most terrible part of this whole situation, besides the act itself.

Could the Ravens organization and Roger Goodell not picture what it looks like to see a 212-pound professional athlete land a solid left hook to the jaw of a defenseless woman? Did the initial reports confirming the fact that Rice knocked his fiancee unconscious fail to illustrate what happened?

Of course Goodell knew what it looked like. And of course the Ravens realized how bad it was. But since it was just some words on the Internet and some scolding columns from sports writers around the country, it wasn’t any worse than any tough situation the league or the Ravens had been in before (Note: See Ray Lewis).

The Ravens and the NFL both figured they had successfully lived down the whole situation. Goodell implemented new policies that would levy harsher penalties for players involved in domestic violence, making him look like he was actually trying to discourage his players from hitting their wives or girlfriends in the first place! And though the Ravens certainly seemed to suffer a bit of a blow after a defeat in their season opener without Rice, two weeks later they’d be whole again and both the organization and its head coach would welcome back their running back gone astray and things would be just like they were before.

And they all would have got away with it too if it wasn’t for that meddling TMZ.

The fact is, the only thing that matters is public perception. And the public has difficulty perceiving the real truth unless it is delivered to their eyeballs, because black and white text just doesn’t cut it, apparently, or at least in the eyes of Roger Goodell and the Baltimore Ravens. What Rice had done was certainly bad, but it didn’t actually “look bad” until people had something to look at. Sure, Rice’s reputation was sullied because of all the reports and negative attention before the video was released, but it didn’t devastate his career, and it certainly didn’t turn fans away, as evidenced by their warm reception of Rice in Baltimore’s first preseason game of the year.

Before the video, the Ravens and the NFL shared the same point of view: Time was healing the wound and soon it would be closed with nary a scar to show for it. Both the Ravens and the League had nearly solved their problem by ignoring it because of the public’s short attention span. I mean, that’s probably why Ray Lewis got a statue outside M&T Bank stadium, right?

It took a grainy video to confirm facts we all knew had definitely happened and that’s the only reason Ray Rice, the NFL, and the Baltimore Ravens didn’t get away with turning a blind eye to domestic violence.

Let’s hope all of these mistakes end here, before any more false idols are erected and before more wife-beating thugs think they can get away with it. Let’s hope that Roger Goodell and the NFL realize that it shouldn’t take video evidence for real justice to be served.

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About Pete Dombrosky
Pete is a graduate of Penn State University and a life-long Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates fan. He covered men's hockey, golf, tennis, swimming and the enterprise beat as a reporter at the Daily Collegian, Penn State's award-winning, independent student-operated paper. He currently serves as the Assistant Managing Editor for Thrillist Media Group (www.thrillist.com).

One Response to Video or it Didn’t Happen: The Ray Rice Story

  1. Robert Dombrosky says:

    Excellent piece.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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