Ray Rice is a horrible, filthy human. That cannot be debated.
He deserved nothing more than your disgust before today. At least now we won’t have to endure his first regular-season appearance in Baltimore, when he would have heard cheers again, just as he did during the preseason and training camp. The Ravens released Rice this afternoon after seeing exactly what he did in an Atlantic City elevator, and he’s been suspended indefinitely by the NFL.
That elevator. The conflict that took place last February between Rice and his then fiance and now wife Janay Palmer was under darkness for so long. We knew the aftermath from a previous video, and it was gruesome enough, already qualifying Rice for a level of menace and danger no man should possess.
Let that image sink in once more. There he was, standing over a woman he was set to marry, after dragging her out of the elevator. She’s unconscious with her head down, buried in a carpet. He has the courtesy to at least allow her that resting place, instead of a cold elevator floor. And he remembers to get her shoe, though unfortunately he didn’t move her legs in time. The doors wanted to close, but they couldn’t. A body was there.
How did Palmer arrive at that position? As expected, the view from inside gets a lot worse.
That video has been discussed all morning and afternoon on ESPN. It’s been shown on a loop by the very network owned and controlled by the league, NFL Network. It’s been the subject of online columns like this one, and sports talk radio discussion, all of which alternate between two emotions: anger towards Rice, and confusion.
This is happening on the day after the first Sunday of the NFL season, a time when we, as football critics and consumers, should be reflecting on what’s been a terrific opening week so far. And we’d be doing that while waiting in anticipation for two more games tonight. The NFL juggernaut is fueled by equal doses of reflection and anticipation.
Yet instead of wondering how the Jaguars could possibly allow 34 unanswered points, or how the Cowboys will win a game, we were asking this: how is Ray Rice still employed by an NFL team?
He’s not. It was fought long and hard, but finally common sense and basic human decency prevailed.
The #Ravens have terminated RB Ray Rice’s contract this afternoon.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 8, 2014
Just as no one can debate the depth of Rice’s mental fracture — or at least a momentary one — with his treatment of a woman he also calls his wife, there’s no discussion here. Releasing Rice wasn’t only the right move, it was the only move.
But it doesn’t erase the willful ignorance from the league and the Ravens franchise, which is even more disgusting now in hindsight. The video that emerged today shows an individual who either lacks or ignores an essential principle: there’s never, ever a justifiable reason to hit a woman. Having a verbal disagreement as a couple is normal, human behavior. Having that escalate to violence isn’t. It was clear Rice didn’t grasp that simple concept, and in a moment of anger it didn’t register in his mind that he can raise his voice, but not his hand.
We knew that. We all knew that when the original video was released months ago, and now this second video only served to verify the extent of his violence. What was the Ravens’ reaction then, and throughout the offseason? They opened their arms, and their doors. Rice was paraded in for a press conference, when he used the team facilities, and sat in front of the team logo.
“Sometimes in life you will fail. But I won’t call myself a failure. Failure isn’t getting knocked down. It’s not getting back up.”
Rice was helped up by the Ravens following the announcement of his original two-game suspension that was a league embarrassment, and Roger Goodell admitted as much. When he made his first training camp appearance and those inexplicable cheers were heard, the Ravens website had the story, with the writer making an effort to speak with female fans who were still wearing Rice jerseys. The public had to know Ray Rice is still wanted in Baltimore.
But the most vomit-inducing act by the Ravens came long before Rice was allowed back on an NFL field, and welcomed as just another employee. Let’s rewind to the press conference that shouldn’t have happened, and note who’s sitting beside him.
That’s Palmer, and at first it was assumed she was there for support, and to show a united front. Which is bad enough, but then something truly unthinkable happened: she was asked to speak. In the most blatantly tone deaf act of this entire Rice spiral, her prepared statement was broadcasted by the Ravens Twitter account.
They promoted her words, and in so doing attempted to soften the negative press Rice was receiving. Somehow she played a role and was at fault. How exactly that works is confusing, because she was unconscious.
But there she was, apologizing for Rice’s physical abuse. They may not have seen the actual footage before today, as Jason La Canfora reported, but the Ravens were fully aware of Rice’s conduct in the elevator. Yet the support continued.
So while the actual footage today was new to the Ravens visually, the description Rice gave them was in line with what the video displayed
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) September 8, 2014
The league also claims to have not seen the video prior to today, even though multiple trusted and highly-sourced insiders — from Adam Schefter to Peter King — reported otherwise. There was some truth bending at some point. Yet again, the first video should have been more than enough for a punishment greater than two games, delivering a strong message.
The Ravens reversed course only in the aftermath of a video they had full knowledge of, and the league instituted a new domestic violence policy after an admitted whiff on Rice’s suspension, with advertisers surely threatening to take action. It’s a policy high on optics, and low on substance.
Throughout the process there’s consistently been a forced reaction by all parties. At least this time is was the right reaction.