Ravens Finally Stop Blaming Ray Rice's Victim
TMZ's leak of elevator security-camera footage of Ray Rice beating Janay Palmer was the straw that finally broke the star running back. It’s a shame it took this long.
The Baltimore Ravens terminated Rice's contract after the video's release left them no other choice. Trigger warning: The graphic videodepicts Rice punching Palmer before she falls, hits her head on the handrail, and then lies in the elevator unconscious. Such a clear picture of what happened that night rallied several players to call for an indefinite suspension for Rice, from Denver Broncos co-captain Terrance Knighton to former linebacker Scott Fujita. And an anonymous Raven texted Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman that the video effectively reversed the position of the previously supportive locker room. "I don't think he has very much support now at all," the player texted before Rice was cut. "I think it's gone."
It’s now important to separate the players from the team, while being careful not to have short memories. The Ravens, after all, had been on a coordinated campaign to boost and defend Rice while smearing Palmer. From the tweet following the disastrous press conference in which the Ravens wanted everyone to know that Palmer “deeply regrets” her actions that night, to head coach John Harbaugh insisting that Rice is “a heck of a guy” who just made a mistake, the team was pretty successful in minimizing the assault and convincing fans to continue to root for a violent abuser.
The league, meanwhile, took its share of criticism, but still hid behind its rules in handing Rice a paltry two-game suspension, and even managed to make us all believe things could actually change for the better in announcing a sweeping overhaul to its personal conduct policy as it relates to domestic violence. We all thought the NFL had finally turned a corner, that the outrage surrounding its harboring a wife-beater had finally reached critical mass, that the Almighty Shield might have actually started to crack.
We were wrong.
The NFL lied to us -- all of us: fans, players, reporters. And it seems that the NFL is still lying to us. The league is trying to tell us that it had not seen this latest video until today, because the idea of a rational, humane person watching a man pummel a woman to the ground, nonchalantly drag her across an elevator into a hallway, and then prop up her listless body to try to restore consciousness -- the idea that someone can see all that and still think that man is fit to keep his job after a two-week timeout is simply too much to bear.
But the league's line in previous weeks has been that it had seen the video, as reported by Sports Illustrated's Peter King, and that its contents might actually go some way toward vindicating Rice. That backfired: The video removed most of the wiggle room apologists had used to explain away Rice's actions as self-defense.
Now, the Ravens have done what the NFL seemingly could not, after exhausting every other possible option. Just as I warned when Goodell announced the NFL's new domestic violence policy, don't be so quick to pat Baltimore on the back. These are actions that should have been taken without the threat of a public relations disaster. It says a lot about us that an institution as powerful as football can treat violence against women so flippantly until public outrage tips its hand.
There's plenty of blame to go around, from Harbaugh and the team to Goodell and the league, to the sorry state of the American criminal justice system. Today, we should be even more angered by the fact that Ray Rice walks free, excused from a felony assault by a judge -- who ostensibly saw the same video you and I and Goodell now have -- through a loophole in the law that is most commonly invoked to divert young, nonviolent offenders to rehabilitation programs. This same judge denied entry to the program to a woman charged with carrying an unlicensed weapon because her gun was registered in another state. It's a sad day when TMZ has done more in the name of justice than the institutions meant to protect us.
Today is not a day for celebration. I certainly can't celebrate that we needed such visceral proof that Rice's victim wasn't to blame. I'm too busy thinking of the millions of women who have only their word.
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