In February, TMZ first released footage of Ray Rice dragging Janay out of the Atlantic City elevator. Both of them were arrested for supposedly attacking each other, though what attack Janay could have made on her fiancé with her bare hands that would have justified him punching her in the head and knocking her unconscious is beyond my comprehension.
In May, the Baltimore Ravens hosted a press conference featuring both Ray and Janay Rice, who had gotten married in the intervening months. Ray Rice begins the press conference by apologizing to everyone except his wife and speaks about “this situation” as though a piano had fallen on them out of the sky. He takes no real responsibility, and never utters the words “violence,” “assault,” or “attack.” Even more astounding (to some) is that later in the same press conference Janay Rice apologized for her “role” in “this incident,” a statement that sounds very much like something engineered by the NFL and the Ravens press teams, but one she may have believed, at least somewhat, since victims of violence are so often made to blame themselves.
The NFL first suspended Rice for two games for what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called a “horrible mistake,” and a flood of criticism ensued, against which Goodell defended himself and the league. Later, as the criticism of Goodell, the NFL, and the Ravens continued to pour in, Goodell admitted he had “not gotten it right the first time” and put in place a new policy that includes a six-game suspension for “first offenses” and a lifetime ban for a “second incident.”
This week, Rice’s contract was terminated and he was cut from the Ravens after an extended portion of the video from his attack on his fiancée was posted by TMZ—a video we havestrong reason to believe NFL and Ravens officials had seen months earlier. Though this was Rice’s “first incident” (as far as we know), the public’s access to the video and the PR disaster that resulted was just too much for the NFL to handle. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that seeing the video “made things a little bit different.” Really? How? Seeing a woman lying unconscious on a hotel lobby floor after being dragged like a rag doll from an elevator and then kicked as though she was an inanimate object (as depicted in video release in February) wasn’t enough to convince him that Ray Rice had committed a serious offense?
Goodell, Harbaugh, and the NFL writ large have put Janay Rice and countless other women in danger with their approach to Ray Rice’s abuse and their “protect the NFL at all costs” policies. I have seen no statement from the NFL that makes clear they understand that, no matter what information or videos are or are not leaked to the public, punching Janay Rice was unacceptable. Nor have I seen a statement from the NFL decrying the fact that she was arrested in conjunction with her own abuse.