Former NFL Player of the Year, Super Bowl Champion and 3 times Pro Bowler, Ray Rice, has been released by the Baltimore Ravens, and handed an indefinite suspension by the league. Rice was cut, and suspended following the release of video of his assault on his then then-fiancée (now wife) by TMZ Sports.
Last month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Ray Rice would receive a two game suspension following his assault Janay Palmer. Almost immediately, the criticism began, with most considering the suspension too lenient, given the nature of the allegations against—Rice has been indicted on charges of third-degree aggravated assault, a charge which carries a possible 3-5 year jail sentence. Later, Goodell has admitted he “didn’t get it right” and introduced sweeping changes to the NFL personal conduct policy to deal with future allegations.
However, the two-game suspension for Rice was not amended, and in spite of the public outcry, the Ravens announced no other sanctions, fines or discipline for the player, and intended to play him in their Week 3 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.
However, the release of the video by TMZ was apparently all that was needed for both the league and team to change their minds.
Within hours of the release of the video, Ravens top brass had met and agreed to sever ties with Rice, who was due to make $4 million this season.
Soon after, the NFL had reversed their initial two game suspension decision, instead handing the running back an indefinite suspension, which in line with the new personal conduct policy will be a minimum of one season, with no guarantee that the suspended player will ever be allowed back into the league.
According to the league, “We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today,” officials said in a statement released to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.
In many ways, the release of the video was exactly what the NFL had been waiting for, that new piece of evidence which would allow them to re-evaluate the original suspension, though some have questioned whether the league were really as in the dark ask they claimed. Some have wondered aloud if they just used the release of the video as an excuse to increase the punishment, without formally acknowledging just how badly they had judged public opinion on the matter.
For her part, Palmer, who married Rice in March—a little more than a month after the assault—has stood by her husband. In an Instagram message posted the day after Rice was released, Palmer called the treatment of her family “horrific” blaming the media and “unwanted options from the public” for costing Rice his career.
She also appeared to indicate that the video has been taken out of context, implying that she had a part to play in the assault, and indicating that she may not even consider herself a victim.
Many victims rights advocates have suggested that this can be a typical response for abused women, with the hashtag #WhyIStayed trending on twitter, with many women recounting their own stories of being unable to walk away from an abusive relationship. However, others have pointed out that both Rice and Palmer were arrested for abuse at the time, and that the claim has been made that she showed aggression towards him first.
The TMZ video, which appears to be authentic, shows Rice and Palmer quietly enter the Atlantic City elevator, before Rice, hits Palmer around the head. She falls and hits her head on a railing, and is dragged out of the elevator. It is a grizzly video which makes for very unpleasant viewing.
However, there are now claims that while the video is authentic it is not complete, and may have been edited by TMZ to paint a much worse picture of Rice than is warranted.
A complete version of the video, viewed by the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, appears to contain audio, and extra footage, which could shed light on Rice’s attack. According to the associated press, Palmer and Rice can both be heard hurling insults and profanity at one-another. The video also appears to much show Palmer attack Rice much more clearly than in the grainy version shown by TMZ, and apparently spit at the running back as well. It is also unclear if it is the blow from Rice, or hitting her head on the railing that causes her to lose consciousness.
If accurate—while far from justifying his actions—may shed some light on why Rice lashed out at his fiancée. If he was provoked, while still barbaric, it certainly would support his claim that it was a one-time mistake made in the heat of an argument, and not a pattern of abuse in the relationship.
According to the AP, Rice also did nothing to hide the fact, in spite of security guards who were ready to write her off as “drunk” and offered the NFL star the option of “no cops”, but Rice did not take them up on their offer, and police were called.
If this is the case, the fact that both the NFL and Ravens made their decision based on only partial information could have further ramifications for the respective parties, including potential legal challenges to the ban. The fact that the NFL Personal Conduct Policy was not changed until after his initial punishment was handed out, and the fact that the new NFL policy makes the punishment for first offences—as in Rice’s case—usually of the 6-game variety could also provide potential legal avenues for Rice to follow, however, whether any team would offer him a contract, even if the ban were to be overturned, seems unlikely at this time.