Did The Ravens Pressure Janay Rice To Apologize For Her Role In Getting Knocked Out?
Within an hour of the announcement that former Ravens running back Ray Rice had won his appeal against the NFL, ESPN published an article written by his wife and victim, Janay (as told to Jemele Hill). It's a fascinating rundown of her entire relationship with Rice, including the incident itself ("We got into the elevator and what happened inside is still foggy to me") and the fallout over the following months.
The piece leaves one very important issue open for interpretation: Did the Ravens pressure Janay into famously apologizing for her role in the assault, for public relations purposes?
Here's Janay's account of May 23, the day that she and Rice held a joint press conference (emphasis ours):
A couple months later came the press conference. The Ravens just said it was something that they felt we should do. I thought it would be good for people to see Ray publicly taking ownership for what he did. I thought it also might help humanize us. The only images out there of us were from that video. I wanted everyone to see who we really are and to understand that I have a voice for myself.
The day of the press conference, May 23, I was anxious. I didn't know if the timing was right. With the legal process still going, I was worried about saying too much -- or not enough. I knew we weren't going to take questions, so while that was a little awkward, it made it easier. I don't think we were ready to answer questions. I just wanted to say what I had to say and leave.
Looking out over the media, I became angry, seeing all the people who had been covering this and adding to the story. I wanted to tell everyone what was really on my mind. When it was my turn to speak, I said I regretted my role in the incident. I know some people disagreed with me publicly apologizing. I'm not saying that what Ray did wasn't wrong. He and I both know it was wrong. It's been made clear to him that it was wrong. But at the same time, who am I to put my hands on somebody? I had already apologized to Ray, and I felt that I should take responsibility for what I did. Even though this followed the Ravens' suggested script, I owned my words.
The message here is mixed. From sentence to sentence, Janay puts the onus for the press conference and what she said from the team to herself. The Ravens appear to be in charge of how to handle the situation, and yet Janay wanted everyone to "understand that I have a voice for myself."
When it comes to the apology, Janay says that the Ravens provided a "suggested script." What is a suggested script, exactly, and did it have "I deeply regret the role I played" written on it? Was it cue cards with talking points? An outline of issues to address? An actual script that she was provided prior to the presser? Regardless, she says she "owns" the words and that this was really on her mind. So are they her feelings, or the team's?
Reading the entire piece, you get the impression that Janay doesn't want to be known as "the victim" of her husband and that she isn't a prisoner to his abuse, as many have ventured to guess when wondering why she would stay with him through this ordeal. And it's tempting to take her word for it, and to let her be in charge of her own life, and to shut up about it since it's none of our business.
On the other hand, we still can't be sure that there aren't fingerprints all over this of greater forces that wanted to (and continue to want to) keep Janay with her husband, and for her to take some blame in getting viciously assaulted and dragged out of an elevator like garbage. It might have made the assault (prior to the release of the second video) easier to swallow; it might make it easier for Rice to find another team to sign with in the future. Whether she meant to or not, Janay kept the team (and the NFL as a whole) in the spotlight and revealed that they may have tried to orchestrate events to meet their own needs, and for that we thank her.
Photo via Getty
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