WIKIMEDIA COMMONS Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended indefinetly by the NFL. His original suspension was only two games long.
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended indefinetly by the NFL. His original suspension was only two games long.

Even before TMZ released the video of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then-fiance unconscious in a hotel elevator, we knew what happened. In February, we all watched the video of Rice and Janay Palmer entering the elevator. Seconds later we watched as he dragged her unconscious body out. We even heard Rice admit that he had hit Palmer that night.

The facts were in. But apparently we needed to see it before it became real enough to pressure the Ravens to take real punitive action against Rice. The mystery shrouding what may or may not have transpired in the elevator left a sliver of doubt just large enough for the NFL to justify slapping the former pro-bowler with a mere two-game suspension. It allowed the Ravens organization to stand behind him, pledging their support to the “couple” and calling Rice a “good guy” in a 1,200-word essay written by the public relations director. It gave Stephen A. Smith the go-ahead to speculate about how Palmer may have provoked the beating — though his comments did earn him a one -week suspension from ESPN. Most significantly, it gave the fans room to express their shock and disgust, but then chalk the incident up to an off-field mistake, albeit a particularly unsavory one.

But yesterday morning, when elevator footage emerged of Rice punching his wife twice with a closed fist and such force that she crumpled to the floor, hitting her head on the railing on the way down, the NFL, the Ravens and the fans were forced to seriously re-evaluate. As Head Coach John Harbaugh said in what became the day’s grandest understatement, the video “changed things a little bit.”

The backlash was as swift as it was fierce. By noon, pundits and fans alike were calling for Rice to be released from his contract. Less than three hours later, it was terminated. Shortly after that, the NFL banned him from the league indefinitely.

These decisions were made not because it was the right thing to do, but because the league and the team were out of options. The Ravens, practicing an extreme form of damage control, simply caved to public pressure, and the league was acting in the best interest of their brand, all of which amounts to one thing: protecting profit. The NFL has proved time and time again that the bottom line is of supreme importance and this prioritizing was reflected repeatedly as this swirling, sordid story has unfolded over the past eight months.

From the weak two-game suspension to the disaster of a May press conference in which Rice not only failed to apologize to his new wife as she sat silently next to him, but employed an ill-chosen, cringe-inducing cliche to describe his mistake (“failure isn’t getting knocked down, it’s not getting up”) to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti expressing sadness that Rice “tarnished his image,” it could not be more clear where the sympathies of the team and of the league lie. Just a hint: it’s not with the victim. As Jemele Hill of ESPN succinctly tweeted, “The Ravens don’t deserve any praise for [releasing Rice].”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Ravens claimed not to have seen the video of the abuse before this morning, which is a result of willful ignorance at best and a blatant lie at worst. While it’s possible that TMZ just received the footage, it is more probable given their slimy nature that they were sitting on the footage, biding their time, waiting to release it after week one in order to rack up page views. The police, however, had access to the footage from the beginning and according to Deadspin.com, the NFL had access to everything in the police investigation.

As a football fan, I’m disgusted by the league’s decisions and lack of transparency. As a Ravens fan, I’m downright ashamed of the organization. As a woman, my heart goes out to Palmer even as I question her judgment for staying with Rice. And as a human being, I’m angry.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. It is an epidemic in our country and yet millionaires go out of their way to protect and defend an abuser because he can hold a football and run a slant route.

As the saying goes, it is better late than never. But in the case of the NFL and the Ravens it is almost worse. Rice would have been back on the field on Friday had the new elevator footage never leaked, despite the fact that everyone knew he was guilty— and if Deadspin.com is correct, then the NFL knew better than most.

It’s sad that the video of the beating had to go viral before the Ravens and the NFL reached the right decision.

Laura Wagner is a senior in the College.

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One Comment

  1. Laura Wagner’s commentary on the Rice suspension is as superbly written as it is thoughtful and insightful. Perhaps we will see the day that what is right outweighs greed and power. The NFL’s actions concerning Rice and a myriad other issues are disgraceful to all women and men alike.

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