In February 2014, Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and his fiancée Janay Palmer (now wife) were arrested, charged and later released in Atlantic City on what was called simple assault charges. The details were not clear at the time. However, what was known was that Rice and Palmer got into a some form of an altercation inside the Revel Casino. Rice’s lawyer stated in was just a “minor physical altercation.” Not long afterward video footage surfaced showing Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of an elevator. The Ravens organization as a whole defended Rice after he was arrested and reiterated he would continue to be the team’s running back. Steve Bisciotti, the team owner, praised Rice and his good character and noted that Rice had no prior off-field trouble. The charges against Rice were elevated to aggravated assault after prosecutors presented the case to a grand jury. At that point, the charges were dropped against Palmer for simple assault (AP, 2014).
Palmer stated she did not wish to proceed with prosecuting Rice. However, that did not keep the state of New Jersey from moving forward with prosecuting the case. Rice did not accept a plea deal that would keep him out of jail in exchange for going through anger management and the successful completion of probation. Instead, he decided to plead not guilty and apply for a first-time offender program that might remove any charges in as little as six-months. Under this program, Rice would need to keep out of any trouble and partake in counseling on a regular basis. Prosecutors did allow Rice into this program instead of going to trial. If he stays out of trouble and completes the 12-month program, his record will not reflect the case. Interestingly, this program is normally only used for non-violent and victimless crimes. Also, entry into the program has been granted in less than 1% of all domestic violence cases in the state of New Jersey (AP, 2014).
The National Football League (NFL) claimed it had not seen any video of an altercation within the casino elevator. A law enforcement official stated the elevator video was sent to the NFL in April and he had proof in the form of a 12-second voicemail with a number within the NFL offices that confirmed the videos arrival. The league office denied ever receiving it. The league claims it requested the tape, but was denied. The Ravens also claimed not to have seen the video until it was released by TMZ (AP, 2014).
Rice is basically assured of not going to jail, but was not able to keep the NFL commissioner from laying down a little justice of his own. He originally suspended Rice for a mere two games. This decision was met with considerable public outrage. Goodell had to admit that his initial punishment was wrong and beefed up the NFL’s policy on domestic violence in reaction to the public outrage. The new policy would suspend a player six-games with no pay for a first offense, and lifetime banishment for a second offense. After seeing Rice knocking his wife unconscious, the Ravens terminated his contract. Allegedly, the team made this decision because Rice was not honest with them.
Shortly after his release from the team, the league suspended him indefinitely. Since the league had previously suspended Rice (the initial two-games), the commissioner needed justification to indefinitely suspend him. The commissioner notified the Players Association that an indefinite suspension resulted from Rice telling them something different than what appeared on the video of him hitting Palmer. Contrary to the commissioner’s statements, there were several sources (including Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome) who stated that Rice was being truthful (McManus, 2014).
By all accounts, Rice was known as a good guy. The commissioner said seeing the video changed everything. But, why? Everyone knew what happened before the video was released. Rice knocked out his then fiancée in an elevator. Nothing changed before or after the video was released. Goodell stated they should have seen it earlier and should have pursued their own investigation more vigorously. That is true. So, why didn’t they? The question still remains. Why would seeing the video change their minds about his punishment? Initially, it was only worth a two game suspension.
Remember, nothing changed. After the video was released, he is suspended indefinitely. Since this is his first offence, shouldn’t he be suspended for only six games? Why should he lose his job and income. Wouldn’t it be better of the NFL and the Ravens organization to help this man and his family instead of just tossing him away like trash? Rice was clearly tried and found guilty by the court of public opinion. It is amazing how fast we are as a society to be publicly correct, jump to conclusions, and show our willingness to take away a person’s livelihood.
AP, (2014). Timeline of Key Events in the Ray Rice Case. Retrieved on 13 Sep 14 from http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/timeline-key-events-ray-rice-case-25441413 McManus, J. (2014). How the NFL’s new domestic violence stance came to be. Retrieved on 13 Sep 14 from http://espn.go.com/espnw/news-commentary/article/11464303/how-nfl-new-domestic-violence-stance-came-be