Ray Rice faces questions as fallout from alleged assault continues

Ravens say running back will return despite loss of his once-pristine public image

  • Ray Rice, daughter Rayven and girfrield Janay Palmer attend a team event at the Lyric Opera House earlier this year.
Ray Rice, daughter Rayven and girfrield Janay Palmer attend… (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore…)
February 22, 2014|By Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Lila Shapiro-Cyr had never felt even a tinge of misgiving about the Ray Rice poster behind the fish tank in her boys’ room, about the No. 27 Ravens jersey her 9-year-old loved to wear during football season.

And yet earlier this week, the Baltimore attorney and mother of two found herself sharing an uncomfortable conversation with her sons about domestic violence and the complexities of idolizing public figures. Rice, the beaming presence on the wall of their Mt. Washington home, was suddenly a man accused of knocking his fiancée unconscious at a New Jersey casino.

“You have someone who really was, or is, one of the good guys,” Shapiro-Cyr said. “They love him, and until this, I thought what better person? There are other athletes for whom this wouldn’t be as surprising, and you wouldn’t be as disappointed. But this is tough.”

Her experience echoes the jarring reaction many fans feel after watching one of the city’s most admired athletes become the subject of nationwide scrutiny.

Those fans are now bracing for what’s next. Prosecutors in New Jersey are weighing the evidence against Rice — a move that carries the threat of more serious charges. The NFL is reviewing his actions and could impose sanctions, including a suspension. And some companies that have hired Rice to endorse their products are waiting for more facts to emerge.

With many waiting for an explanation, Rice has yet to comment publicly.

“Ray Rice is a father, a partner and a bastion of the community,” his attorney, Michael Diamondstein, said. “Would he like to comment about what actually transpired? I’ll leave that up to the public’s common sense. At this point in time, the only thing Ray can do is remain silent until such time as the prosecutor has decided where this matter will go.”

Rice already faced difficult questions about his football future after an injury-plagued 2013 season that ranked as his worst in six years with the Ravens. He seemed unusually moody at times in dealing with the corresponding criticisms of his play.

Even so, he maintained his reputation as a telegenic team leader whose size — at 5 feet 8, he is the shortest Raven — allowed fans to identify with him and whose strong words against bullying rang out across Baltimore.

As the fallout continues, however, his reputation is in jeopardy, according to fans and marketing experts. Meanwhile, friends and relatives say Rice and fiancee Janay Palmer are working on their relationship privately.

“I can’t think of another athlete in the area who has experienced this kind of rapid turn,” said Howe Burch, president of Baltimore-based TBC Advertising. “He’s probably the one player you’d least expect this to happen with.”

Even if Rice is legally absolved, he will never be able to erase the video images of him dragging Palmer from a Revel Casino elevator in the wee hours of a Saturday morning. The 50-second video on TMZ.com — combined with a court summons accusing Rice of knocking Palmer unconscious — exacerbated a situation that one of his attorneys, Andrew Alperstein, initially downplayed as a “very minor physical altercation.”

Rice and Palmer both face simple assault charges stemming from the Feb. 15 incident. Rice also faces the prospect of NFL discipline; a league source told The Baltimore Sun his actions are under review.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome on Saturday said the organization would take a wait-and-see approach as details continue to emerge about the allegations.

“It doesn't look good, but I will reserve all of my comments until I get a chance to talk to Ray,” Newsome said at the NFL scouting combine. “The whole video needs to be reviewed. ... In any of those situations, it's very concerning. Up until we get all of the facts, we will allow the process to run its course."

Based on what he's been told from Rice's conversations with team officials, including head coach John Harbaugh and director of team security Darren Sanders, Newsome said he's encouraged.

“Right now, I feel very good about his side of the story," he said.

Coach John Harbaugh said Friday that he expects Rice to be with the team next season and alluded to the admirable characteristics Rice has demonstrated over many years.

“Yeah, there's a lot of facts, a lot of process that has to be worked through in anything like this,” Harbaugh told reporters Friday at the NFL’s annual scouting combine in Indianapolis. “There are a lot of question marks. Ray's character ... you guys know his character. You start with that.”

He added that Rice and Palmer are trying to work on their relationship in the wake of the incident.

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