For all of those in Baltimore yesterday, Facebook feeds were blanketed with reports on a new video clip of NFL running back Ray Rice punching his fiancee, now his wife, Janay in the face and knocking her out. The clip, taken from elevator cameras in the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, is the front end of a clip that was released earlier in the summer that showed Rice dragging Janay out of the elevator. For his part in the incident, Rice was suspended for two games and had one game check withheld. This new clip is brutal, it is heart breaking, and it changes everything.
The questions swirling around this case are legion. Who had seen the complete tape? Had the NFL? Had the Ravens? What did Ray Rice tell these organizations? What did Janay Rice? Why was Janay Rice interviewed in front of the man who beat her? Why did Ravens’ Senior Vice President of Public and Community Relations write an article entitled I Like Ray Rice? Why did the Baltimore Ravens’ continually shift the blame to Janay Rice for three months, making it clear that she felt this was her fault? Why were there women walking around M&T Bank Stadium yesterday in Ray Rice jerseys? Why couldn’t this have been easy?
It could have been easy. TMZ released the initial tape in February. The NFL did not discipline Ray Rice until July. When they did, he received little more than a slap on the wrist. Compare Rice’s two games with Josh Gordon’s immediate indefinite suspension for testing positive for marijuana. With the release of the initial tape, the public was inevitably left with the impression that the NFL cares about its athletes doing drugs and compromising their money-making ability more than it cares about women. Yesterday did nothing to change that impression.
First, a digression. It is incredibly important to the facts of this case whether or not the NFL had seen the complete tape. The video shows Ray and Janay’s walk to the elevator, what happened in the elevator, and Rice dragging his wife’s unconscious body out of the elevator. The police had certainly seen the complete tape, so add this question to the list: Why was Ray Rice released and not held for giving a woman a vicious left cross, sending her head crashing into a metal pole and knocking her out? Yesterday, ESPN reporter Jane McManus said that the NFL had the same evidence as the police. If the Atlantic City police, the NFL, and the Ravens had seen the tape, then they were involved in a cover-up. They willfully withheld information, and at the same time, made Janay Rice to blame and engaged the fans in helping to shift the blame to Janay, involving the fans as participants in a cover-up.
There is evidence that the Ravens and the NFL had the full tape. In an article from July 29, Peter King, a writer for Sports Illustrated, made reference to the fact that the NFL and the Ravens had seen the tape from inside the elevator. Chris Mortensen from ESPN was also able to accurately describe this second tape back in July. Both of these reporters had sources that either showed them the tape or described it in enough detail. Both of these reporters then starting blaming Janay, saying that the footage would go a long way to making what Rice did okay. Fans believed them, the NFL, and the Ravens. Kevin Byrne’s public relations piece went to great lengths describing Ray Rice as a good guy who made a mistake. Ravens fans bought it all, hook, line, and sinker. They bought it gladly. Then, the second tape was released by TMZ, and the outrage started.
But was it outrage? The message ringing through Charm City for the last seven months has been, “We don’t know what happened in that elevator.” Now, we know that is a load of garbage. Ravens fans always knew what happened in that elevator. Janay may have been drunk, but she did not fall and hit her head. That was a lie Ravens fans sold themselves, to make it okay to welcome a wife beater into their living rooms on a Sunday afternoon. With the release of the new tape, that plausible deniability was gone. This is not outrage emanating from Baltimore, it is embarrassment. Embarrassment for being involved in a cover-up, and embarrassment for desperately believing that just because someone played football well, he was worthy of forgiveness and respect. The NFL duped its fans, and like lambs to the slaughter, they lined right up.
Here is what the NFL made its fans a party to: 25 percent of women will be involved in domestic abuse. One in three women who are murdered are more likely to be murdered by their partner. 3 million children a year see abuse in their own homes. By asking fans to accept Ray Rice, to forgive him, the NFL has made those same fans a party to violence against women that most would never accept in their personal lives. They forgave Ray Rice, they blamed Janay Rice, they did everything the NFL asked them to do, and they were rewarded with a video of a professional football player knocking the woman he supposedly loves unconscious.
This morning, Janay Rice posted on her Instagram account that she is living a nightmare. Some would say that the nightmare is one in four people end up homeless because of domestic violence. Some would say that the nightmare is the way the NFL and Ravens’ front office engaged in a cover-up, and asked their fans to rationalize why it is okay for a man to hit a woman. Doing this has betrayed the fans of the NFL and the Ravens. In almost every statement released by the Ravens, those making the statements illustrated their relationships with the women in their own lives, their mothers, their wives, their daughters. More important then betraying the fans, by accepting Ray Rice, and asking the fans to accept Ray Rice, they have betrayed those women.
Opinion by Bryan Levy