Sports / TV

The Late Termination of Ray Rice and the NFL’s Empathy Problem

The Rices at a press conference

It was reported yesterday that the Ravens have terminated Ray Rice’s contract, following the leak of the video footage of him knocking his then fiancée to the ground in an elevator, and dragging her unconscious body out of it. Back in the day, TMZ concerned themselves with going through celeb trashcans, but now it seems they’re more interested in disruptive, investigative reporting. As it turns out, TMZ had a greater impact on the outcome of Ray Rice than the commissioner of the NFL, which is the saddest sports truth you may see all season.

janay regrets the role she played

In case you need a quick recap, in March, Rice was arrested and indicted for aggravated assault. Victim blaming shit storms commence for several weeks. In July, Commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell announced that Rice would serve a two-game suspension for his assault on Janay Rice. In response to the outcry over this unbelievably light punishment, it was later announced that future first-time offenders would serve a six-game suspension.

Looking forward to @Ravens tweeting his wife’s apology.

Question to think about: Why did we need a video of the domestic violence to get Rice kicked from the Ravens?

The NFL is unconcerned with holding its players accountable and protecting victims of domestic violence. Rice would have probably gotten a longer suspension if he had thrown that same punch in the field. Meanwhile, the NFL wants to look like it cares about women by making its players wear pink crap. But as far as its policies on domestic violence goes, it’s more like “if you hit a woman, make sure nobody knows.” There was already an existing tape of Rice dragging the body of an unconscious Janay from the elevator, which should have shocked everyone enough. But while Goodell may have believed people have put the “incident” behind them, it’s bad PR that we’re still talking about it. The NFL’s official statement was that no one had seen the additional footage until Monday when the video surfaced, which would be remarkable if it were true.


It’s worth asking why the video of Rice dragging his fiancée out of the elevator would be available, but not the footage three seconds before that. In addition, back in July, sportswriter Peter King wrote in a piece for MMQB which directly contradicts this statement.

There is one other thing I did not write or refer to, and that is the other videotape the NFL and some Ravens officials have seen, from the security camera inside the elevator at the time of the physical altercation between Rice and his fiancée.

And he is not the only journalist. ESPN’s Jane McManus and Adam Schefter both commented on the inconsistent stories about whether the NFL had seen the video when making their original two-game suspension decision.

Whoa whoa, but wait, we are getting ahead of ourselves. Why did we need a video?

Because what happened with Janay and Ray Rice is only loosely related to football, and its money making purse string dangling, hero worshiping culture (though it is definitely related, do not be mistaken). And good, because I don’t even want to talk about football anymore. Nobody has tried harder to like football in my family than me. My family loves football. It happens to be on during most of our get togethers, and I’ve spent many years growing up feeling left out of the fun. But I’m just a shoulder shrugger who left my team spirit on the bench, and whenever someone tries to explain the game to me, my eyes kind of reflexively glaze over. That’s just me, guys. But what is going on in the NFL is indicative of the real world hurdles that victims of domestic violence have to jump all the time just to be taken seriously.

But to answer the question about why we needed a video, it’s because:

  • Many outsiders will rely on myths around domestic violence, such as the idea that the woman must have provoked it.
  • These same people will ignore the appalling statistics on violence against women in this country and find a way to assume the woman was the aggressor when this is very rarely the case. They will wrongly assume that men and women have equally violent behaviors when in fact 85% of domestic violence victims are women.
  • Women will often be pressured to downplay assaults due to the lack of support for them. Women may also often blame themselves for what happened due to the fact that emotional and psychological abuse often come in tandem with physical abuse (or in this case, Janay was interviewed with the abuser present in the same room).
  • Many will chalk up the incident as a simple “misunderstanding,” especially if a woman stays with, or in this case, marries her abuser.
  • It is only through a shining example where the female victim appears to be “faultless” (see: rape vs. “legitimate rape”), that people will get go of these silly ideas and care that somebody got punched in the face, knocked unconscious, and dragged across the floor like a bag of garbage.

Knowing all this, how can we trust that people, let alone organizations like the NFL, will be on the right side of this if it happens again?


7 thoughts on “The Late Termination of Ray Rice and the NFL’s Empathy Problem

  1. Well said. The video is appalling, and allows some of the victim-blaming to be negated. However, the video shouldn’t have been necessary to get him permanently suspended.

  2. I read comments on a news article today that said she deserved it because she is seen hitting him before the get on the elevator, that the reason she still married him is because she is a gold digger, and why she is thinks the outcome is a nightmare is because she just wants the money. I am not a part of their relationship so I can’t and won’t speak to what that situation is. What is disgusting is that hitting your partner, male or female, is not okay in any form. I don’t like football either, but you are right, why did it take video evidence before there were real consequences? Why didn’t the full video show everything in the first place? Why are athletes and celebrities treated differently?

  3. Pingback: Ray Rice Saga Shows Worst of NFL and Media

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