(Opinion) It’s been several months since I last reached out to you in an open letter format. Back then, you guys were being raked over the coals for a seemingly hypocritical stance on concussions in the NFL. Now we stand at another critical juncture for the NFL and we’re once again finding the League to be on the late freight as far progressive thought is concerned. When the first video featuring Ray Rice was initially brought to light there were plenty of people who wished to exercise caution on Rice’s behavior. “He’s a good guy” said the Raven’s owner and brass. “We should wait until all of the facts come in” said other NFL prognosticators. “We shouldn’t rush to judgment” said cable news network talking heads. Meanwhile, visions of a young black woman’s unconscious and limp body laying sprawled out in an elevator doorway in Atlantic City are permanently etched in our minds. That image seemed quite self-explanatory. For the sake of remembrance, we’ll go ahead and embed that video below.
The initial responses notwithstanding, it would be 20 weeks before the NFL would actually do something about it by issuing its two game suspension in July. Even then, the response left much to be considered and reconsidered in the months that followed. The Atlantic City Police Department initially charged Rice with felony assault that was almost immediately reduced to third degree assault. Months after the unfortunate events that resulted in the public humiliation of Janay Palmer, Ray Rice would hold a press conference in which he apologized to the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens and his fans…but never apologized to the woman who he made his wife shortly after this disgusting affair came to the public light. In fact, she was the one who apologized. For what? Your guess is as good as ours.
The former Miss Palmer turned Mrs. Rice sat awkwardly by his side, seemingly shamed by her place at the side of the man who brutally struck her down. There were all sorts of conspiracy theories being floated regarding her continued allegiance to Rice. However, the simplest and most probable of all these theories is simple; she loves him thus will not forsake him in his darkest hour, even if the moral darkness within him resulted in her seeing the darkness associated with forced unconsciousness.
Rice was to be suspended for the first two games based upon the initial video, video that showed him dragging the unconscious body of his daughter's mother from an elevator, her skirt lifted embarrassingly high, her underwear exposed. In this video, he could also be seen kicking her unresponsive body to see if that would revive her. Though the initial video does not reveal the manner in which she came to be unconscious, the circumstantial evidence was more than enough for the viewer to draw the obvious conclusion and deem the commissioner's punishment embarassingly soft.
Yet Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, GM Ozzie Newsome and NFL Roger Goodell were comfortable with leaning on their prior knowledge of Rice’s “good guy” status to tread lightly in considering and administering punishment for these actions. But nothing that Rice has ever done should have been able to overpower the visceral reaction to seeing the initial video. Goodell himself would eventually realize the err of his ways by completely refurbishing the NFL’s domestic violence policy, making it mandatory for first time violators of the policy to miss six games, second time offenders being banned for life.
That all sounded great in retrospect, but the NFL appeared to be comfortable with weathering the initial criticism over this feathery-soft punishment afforded to Ray Rice, hoping the initial backlash and outrage would fade. Initially, individuals thought to have been quoting sources close to the affair speculated that the then-fiancée of Ray Rice attacked him in some manner prior to the release of the video. He then, righteous in defense of his person, struck her back. Some accidental happenstance was alluded to regarding her unconscious state. However, just when the flames were beginning to die down, TMZ released the unseen tape of what happened within the elevator. Events that had only been speculated upon before were now in full display, their gut-wrenching contents were made available for all the world to see.
As ashamed as I am to admit it, I too succumbed to this silly theory. I assumed that the NFL had obviously seen the tape from within the elevator. Their light-handed punishment of Rice fed my own false thinking that Palmer was somehow an aggressor, somehow to blame, for her own demise that night. Any theory that directly or indirectly states that a woman weighing far less than Rice can hurt an NFL running back in his physical prime is farcical.
But I fell for the farce as well.
Yet this theory was further strengthened by the fact that both parties were initially arrested and charged similarly, but Janay's charges were later dropped. In addition, Ray’s attorney Michael Diamonstein released a statement that brushed over the facts as well. Pro-Ray Rice media blitz was in full effect. Ray Rice was on the verge of being reinstated by the NFL when the full and ugly truth came to light. In the video, Rice and Janay can be seen arguing prior to getting on the elevator.
She then appears to strike him in a backhand manner in his chest area. They get on the elevator where the fighting continues. He appears to spit on her and slap her, she approaches him, at which point he strikes her with a left hook that sends her head careening toward at metal railing. She immediately falls unconscious. In the aftermath of the release of the video, Ray Rice is then suspended indefinitely. We then witness Roger Goodell and the NFL state that they never saw the video from the inside of the elevator, while also hearing the claim from the entire brain trust of the Baltimore Raven’s franchise that they did not see THAT video either. But despite those statements of innocence, the Atlantic City Police Department is saying they supplied the NFL with the video and even have a voicemail from a female employee at the office of the NFL acknowledging it was viewed by SOMEONE there; yet no one of merit admits to having viewed it. These numerous scenarios of feigned ignorance stink of an exercise in plausible deniability.
Everyone is admitting to making mistakes, but no one is willing pay for those mistakes. Individuals on the alleged “Worldwide Leader of Sports” are on record as admonishing those calling for some kind of punishment for commissioner Roger Goodell and even Raven’s owner Steve Bisciotti. No one did their due diligence in making sure Ray Rice was properly punished for his crime against Janay Palmer. Bisciotti even admitted to reporters that he didn’t have any desire to watch either video because he wanted to believe Ray Rice was telling the truth, which led some to believe he was trying to say Rice was less than truthful in light of the details that have been made obvious by both the internal and external elevator video.
However GM Ozzie Newsome is on record as saying he was aware of every grizzly detail that occurred in the elevator prior to the release of the sickening second video. There’s also been some press released that would suggest there was something of a split within the Raven’s franchise regarding the fate of Ray Rice after the disclosure of the first video. The rumor had it that coach John Harbaugh wanted to release Rice upon the initial revelation but was overruled. Harbaugh is now on record as saying the rumor was wrong. He supported Rice from the very beginning despite the fact that admitting his support of Rice makes him appear as dismissive of the seriousness of these events as everyone else. Recently, the National Organization of Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neil released a statement calling for the firing of commissioner Roger Goodell for the poor manner in which domestic violence cases involving Rice, Ray McDonald, Greg Hardy and the many other past cases of domestic violence in the league's past were handled.
Yet even NOW deserves a side eye for the interesting timing of their “outrage”. Where were they back in February? Where was all this outrage then? The early video was just as conclusive as the second one regarding Rice’s role in the consciousness, and lack thereof, of Janay Rice. Now everyone is running around like chickens with their heads cut off in trying to correct themselves in hindsight. The NFL shield’s veneer has been forever tarnished and there’s not a damn thing anybody can do about it now. However, the finger pointing and the moral grandstanding being perpetrated by all parties involved is downright disgusting and makes me give less of a damn about the fate of mankind today than I did on February 18, a day before TMZ released the initial video of the limp body of Janay laying face down on an elevator floor.