Why not? It seems to be all that anyone is talking about. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have weighed in, along with every sports columnist, talk show host and water cooler pundit in the country. So I might as well give it a go. Here are my opinions on the Ray Rice flap, in no particular order. Feel free to correct me in the comments.
1) I hate these ritual shunnings where everyone, seemingly, is required to join in the condemnation–in this case, of Ray Rice. If you do anything but participate in the chorus of opprobrium, it sounds like you are coming out in favor of wife-beating. But my instinct is to rebel against the herd.
2) Many observers–Hugh Hewitt, for one–are ripping NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for imposing only a two-game suspension on Rice, and then getting religion after the elevator video came to light. Point taken: the original video showed Rice dragging his unconscious wife out of the elevator in a bizarrely matter-of-fact manner (as my wife pointed out), as though she gets unconscious a lot. There was never any question, based on the police report, that her unconsciousness was the result of a Rice punch. So it is easy to ridicule the league’s (and the Baltimore Ravens’) change of heart.
But why does the NFL consider itself some kind of moral arbiter? The criminal justice system didn’t seem to think much of Rice’s offense. Why, exactly, should he be banned from earning a living at football? If he were a waiter, a pipe fitter, a salesman or a factory worker, he would show up on Monday and go to work. Does the NFL seriously believe that its players are role models who are–consistently!–held to a high moral standard? If so, I reply: Ray Lewis. Ray Lewis is one of the most admired players in NFL history and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame before long. Yet he was involved in a murder case, in which the best that could be said of him was that he didn’t actually wield the knife, but only drove the getaway car and paid off the witnesses. If I had to encounter one of those guys in a dark alley, I would prefer that it be Ray Rice.
3) The person in this story for whom I have the most sympathy is Janay Rice, Ray Rice’s fiancé at the time of the elevator incident, now his wife. Janay has been with Rice for a long time. They dated in high school and have a child. She has expressed regret for her role in the events that led to her husband’s downfall. Some think that is outrageous. Not me: she and her now-husband (likely both drunk) were screaming obscenities at one another as they entered the elevator; Janay took a poke at Ray and spat at him before he slugged her. Does that excuse his knocking her out? Of course not. But it is easy to see why she regrets her role in the incident, too. On Instagram, Janay Rice wrote:
I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend. But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific.
THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. 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!
Some think that Janay Rice is psychologically defective because she has stood up for Ray. Others think she is a gold-digger who will dump him now that he is more or less unemployable. They could be right. I don’t know, I’ve never met the woman. But why not believe her? Is she embarrassed by the videos that have come to light? No doubt. Imagine the worst 30 seconds of your life being published on TMZ. But she has been with Rice since they were teenagers. She knows him a hell of a lot better than you and I do. She got knocked out, and married him anyway. I don’t know; there is a lot of posturing going on here, but my inclination is to be on her side.
4) I don’t approve of anything that went on here–the cursing, the spitting, the punches, the seemingly callous treatment of an unconscious woman. But it’s their relationship, not mine. Without knowing anything about the Rices, my guess is that neither of them grew up under the most genteel conditions. And here’s a #ProTip: a great many of the men who thrive in professional football are rough, brutal and unschooled. And I don’t just mean the extreme cases like Ray Lewis and Aaron Hernandez, apparently a multiple murderer. This is a world that the rest of us can barely imagine.
I come back to something that Janay said:
To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life…
She is right about that. Ray Rice has worked extraordinarily hard to become an all-pro running back. Janay was there, apparently, every step of the way. Do I approve of wife-beating? Of course not. It is a matter for the criminal justice system, which, rightly or wrongly, has had its say. But, if it were up to me, would I deprive Rice of his livelihood, and subject the Rices to the epic humiliation that is now being inflicted on them? No, I would not.
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