No Winners in Ray Rice's Game
What happens behind closed doors — or rather closing doors — does not always stay behind them. Not for former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, apparently.
Earlier this week, another key development emerged in Rice’s domestic violence controversy, as TMZ on Monday released a video depicting the shocking events that took place on that fateful Atlantic City elevator ride in February. The video shows Rice throwing two punches at his then-fiancée and now-wife Janay Palmer, knocking her unconscious. Before the elevator doors close, Rice strikes Palmer, and as she moves to retaliate, he strikes her again, causing her to hit the elevator wall and lose consciousness.
The tape then shows Rice calmly dragging her out of the elevator before a hotel employee spots them. Perhaps the most chilling part of the episode is when Palmer regains consciousness and Rice puts his arm around her, as if to comfort her.
Though this latest video yielded more troubling details, the footage of Rice dragging Palmer had already been circulated, leading initially to the equivalent of a slap on the wrist — a two-game suspension — by the NFL, followed by more stringent punishment from the league after the first meager penalty sparked an outcry. The new release has pushed the NFL to suspend Rice indefinitely, causing his termination from the Ravens and stirring up more public debate. Even President Obama has taken the time to address the issue, commenting in a statement read Monday by White House spokesman Josh Earnest that “hitting a woman is not something a real man does.”
So Rice is out of a job; plus, he’s been dropped by sponsors and erased from EA Sports’ “Madden NFL 15” video game, and he’ll have to attend mandatory counseling sessions for a year. Where do we find Palmer in all of this? On Instagram, posting hopeful messages such as: “If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is! Ravensnation we love you!” and “To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his a** off for all his life just to gain ratings is a horrific [sic]. THIS IS OUR LIFE!”. The “OUR” in this equation, of course, also includes the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, Rayvan Rice.
Finally, further demonstrating that everyone loses (except TMZ) in a situation like this, the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, who for a moment seemed to make an effective apology and take a firmer stance on domestic violence on behalf of the league, ended up with a little PR problem on their hands after Monday’s TMZ update. Goodell insisted on the “CBS Evening News” on Tuesday that he and everyone else in the NFL hadn’t seen the new footage, but as The Boston Globe’s Christopher L. Gasper pointed out Wednesday, “it defies credulity that TMZ.com could get its hands on the video and the most powerful sports league in North America, a league populated with influential billionaires and masters of the universe, couldn’t procure it.” We’ll let Gasper have the last word below:
The NFL gambled and it lost. It lost respect. It lost dignity. It lost some of the shine on its precious shield the moment the heinous surveillance video was glimpsed. The NFL closed its eyes and expected everyone else to do the same.
There is a willful suspension of disbelief that goes along with the business of the NFL, where the players are indistinguishable from the product. The players, portrayed, packaged and sold as superheroes are in reality flawed human beings, some with deeper flaws than others. The coaches, the general managers, the owners, the commissioner don’t really want to know what malice their players are capable of off the field, as long as they’re producing for them on it.