Again: There Was Nothing 'Ambiguous' About What Ray Rice Did In That Elevator
In trying to strike down Ray Rice, the NFL has created a scandal greater than anyone could have imagined.
From originally levying a mere two-game suspension against the running back, to the scramble to ban him indefinitely after TMZ released a video tape that the league itself (or even the Ravens) could have obtained but didn't, to the apparent cover-up that Roger Goodell and company have engaged in since, there are so many elements of this story that have gone wrong, it's hard to know where one egregious error ends and another begins.
But there's one part of this story that I can't get over (although the question of whether domestic violence is so endemic to our culture that we've been ignoring it for far longer than we should is slowly creeping up the ranks of "Things That Bother Me About This") is the idea that the video from inside the elevator somehow changed everyone's perspective of what happened. I wrote about this earlier in the week: We all knew what happened in there, and yet we, collectively, ignored it.
Here's what we knew before the inside-the-elevator tape was released: Ray Rice knocked out his then-fiancee and dragged her out of the elevator with as much care as he would treat an opposing linebacker. "How" he knocked her out appears to be the issue for both the Ravens' front office and the league office in determing how tough to be on Rice originally. The Ravens' brass spoke to the Baltimore Sun yesterday about the Rice investigation, and president Dick Cass admited as much:
“There’s a big difference between reading a report that says he knocked her unconscious or being told that someone had slapped someone and that she had hit her head,” Cass said. “That is one version of the facts. That’s what we understood to be the case. When you see the video, it just looks very different than what we understood the facts to be.”
The police report simply states: "...commit assault by attempting to cause bodily injury to J. Palmer, specifically by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious." I guess that doesn't sound as bad as the video looks. But the original video of Rice dragging Palmer out of the elevator should have put to bed the idea that the assault was somehow benign.
Regardless, general manager Ozzie Newsome maintained that Rice was up front and truthful about what transpired in the elevator. This is the very next part of the article:
Newsome said he and Harbaugh spoke to Rice shortly after his arrest, and his version of what happened matched what was on the tape. But seeing the incident took things to an entirely different level.
“Ray didn’t lie to me,” Newsome said.
This seems to contradict what Goodell told Norah O'Donnell on CBS, when he said that Rice and his representatives were "ambiguous" about what happened. Either Rice told the NFL and the Ravens two different versions of the story, or the NFL interpreted the account differently than the Ravens did, or everyone is lying about everything and trying to save face.
Here's the likeliest scenario, the scenario that has played out dozens of times with different NFL players over the years and is played out all over the world, constantly, probably even at this moment: The NFL didn't take this assault seriously enough. They let Ray Rice off the hook, because even though we knew what happened in that elevator, it took watching a video of the incident to make them take action. The police description was plain, obvious and to the point. What else did they need to know?
Which, of course, brings us back to the original question, or one of them: How did the league feel comfortable suspending Rice for two games when it hadn't reviewed all of the evidence? This second video was available for them to see -- Rice's lawyer had a copy of the tape, the casino could have legally provided it, and TMZ was able to get their hands on it. But it was easier to take things at face value and simply slap Rice on the wrist.
Yes, the NFL took the easy way out. But so did the Ravens fans who applauded Rice upon his return to the field. So did the Twitter apologists and media pundits who made light of the situation and everyone else who assumes the best when domestic violence is clearly the worst. There was no ambiguity here, unless you count the NFL's view of the case. That's the most shocking thing of all.
Photo via Getty
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