What Ray Rice’s case says about domestic abuse in the NFL
By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
On February 15, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught on tape in an Atlantic City casino elevator punching his then-fiancée, now wife, Janay Palmer unconscious. There were two separate collections of footage as a result: one inside the elevator, and one outside. The outside footage was released immediately, showing Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out from the elevator. The inside footage wasn’t released publicly until September 8, by TMZ no less.
In the updated video, Rice and Palmer can be seen arguing with each other upon entering the elevator. Before the elevator doors even close, Rice hits Palmer in the face. Palmer then runs towards Rice, who punches her again, causing her head to hit a guardrail; Palmer lies unconscious on the ground. Rice then spends an undetermined amount of time trying to drag Palmer’s body out of the elevator. After Palmer is moved outside, her feet are still within the open elevator doors; Rice can be seen nudging her body with his feet. Rice tries lifting her up, only to leave her head between the now-closing elevator doors; a worker at the casino holds the doors open. Eventually, Palmer wakes up; she begins crying and a crowd forms around her; an unknown person tries to console her. When Palmer finally stands up, Rice’s hand can be seen reaching out to Palmer, who slaps his hand away.
Prior to the original outside-elevator video release on February 19, both Rice and Palmer were arrested, leaving Rice charged with assault. On March 27, Rice was ultimately charged with third-degree aggravated assault by a grand jury; Rice and Palmer married on March 28.
The NFL’s response to Rice’s charges was a mere two-game suspension. Rice meanwhile is currently taking part in a pretrial program, which, if he completes over the next six months, will see his aggravated assault charges dropped.
In the days since the September 8 full-video release, social media- and journalistic-chaos has erupted. Rice was immediately cut from the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has repeatedly stated he did not see the September 8 video until its public release; however, associated press revealed that the inside-elevator footage was sent to an NFL executive back in April, contradicting Goodell’s claims that the NFL asked for and never received any video.
Palmer, who has since taken Rice’s name, has spoken out about the case in the days since the inside-elevator video release. Initially Palmer took to Instagram to express her discouragement with the media’s response to the video. In a post from September 9, Palmer wrote, “To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret everyday is a horrible thing.”
Palmer has appeared with Rice at press events, and has defended him since the original video release. The case has inspired the #WhyIStayed movement on social media, in which women detail why they stayed with their abusive partners.
In a since-deleted tweet from May, the Ravens went so far as to partially blame Palmer for her assault: “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”
There are several layers to this story that make it emotionally complicated to hear and think about. The first layer, of course, is that Rice assaulted his partner, and only now is truly being punished for the act. The second is that Palmer has stayed with and defended Rice since, and has been blamed in part for the attack. The third is Goodell’s continued excuses and defences for his lack of action until the inside-elevator video was actually made public. The fourth is the NFL’s handling of the entire situation, of all situations regarding football players and (domestic) assault cases—the Rice case is only one of the 85 acknowledged domestic assault cases by NFL players since 2000, as outlined by USA Today.
Between Ray Rice, Carolina Panthers’ Greg Hardy, and San Francisco 49ers’ Ray McDonald, there have been three NFL domestic assault cases this year. Despite Rice’s cut and suspension, Hardy and McDonald are still playing.