New video, outcry lead Ravens to cut Rice

NFL indefinitely suspends running back after footage shows him knocking out then-fiancee

September 08, 2014|By Jean Marbella and Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun

A newly circulated video showing Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee drew heightened and widespread outrage Monday, prompting the Ravens to fire the player whose dazzling runs on the field and anti-bullying efforts off it had endeared him to Ravens Nation.

Rice, 27, had appeared poised to weather the storm that ensued after he was charged with assault for the incident in an Atlantic City, N.J., casino. The Ravens stood behind him, the National Football League punished him with a relatively light two-game suspension, and many fans greeted him warmly at an open practice at M&T Bank Stadium and continued to sport his No. 27 jersey.

But the video that showed Rice punching now-wife Janay Palmer — in contrast to the previously released clip that showed only the aftermath, with him dragging her out of an elevator — proved shocking in a way that written accounts had not.

The reaction was swift and harsh.

By 2:18 p.m., about 10 hours after the website TMZ released the new footage, the Ravens issued a terse statement announcing that Rice's contract had been terminated, a move that will cost the team millions of dollars. Soon thereafter, the NFL suspended the player indefinitely. The league had revised its domestic violence policy last month after outcry over Rice's original penalty.

The NFL and Nike online stores pulled Rice's jerseys off their sites, as did some brick-and-mortar stores. The three Dick's Sporting Goods stores in the Baltimore area, for example, emptied their racks of Rice gear after receiving an email from corporate headquarters. Smyth Jewelers offered store credit for returned Ray Rice merchandise ranging from $60 to $500, and pledged to make a donation to a domestic violence group matching those amounts.

All day, condemnation of Ravens and NFL executives scorched the airwaves and social media. Reaction came from all corners, including fans, lawmakers and even the White House.

"I'd rather lose games without Ray Rice than win games with him," tweeted @lindseyyok, who co-hosts a podcast, Purple Reign.

Many fans and commentators questioned when the Ravens and the NFL first saw the video taken inside the elevator and whether they were taking harsher action in light of new information or reacting to the uproar.

NFL officials said they saw the footage for the first time Monday, despite having asked police and prosecutors for all evidence in the case. Ravens coach John Harbaugh also said the team saw it for the first time Monday.

"It changed things, of course. It made things a little bit different," Harbaugh said in explaining his reaction to the video.

Meanwhile, fans who previously had been willing to give Rice another chance now said they felt complicit.

"Seeing the video today was pretty horrific," said state Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat. "It was swept under the rug with the two-game suspension, and seeing [the violence] so clear and present made me feel guilty about the whole situation and withholding judgment in the past."

Ferguson, who has a 7-week-old daughter, decided to donate the $75 he had paid for his Ray Rice jersey several years ago to the House of Ruth, which advocates for and shelters victims of domestic violence.

His tweet about the donation resonated with Morgan Meneses-Sheets, a Catonsville mother of two daughters who similarly donated to the nonprofit. Meneses-Sheets said she and her wife bought Ravens and Orioles onesies for their daughters, followed by more team gear as they grew bigger.

"It's a hard day to be a Ravens fan," she said. "We were proud of them when they brought home the Super Bowl trophy, and as proud as I was that day, I am so ashamed today to call myself a Ravens fan."

The Ravens announced a new partnership with the House of Ruth on the same day the NFL unveiled its revised domestic violence policy last month. In a statement Monday, the nonprofit thanked the Ravens and NFL for "such a strong stand against intimate partner violence."

For some, the NFL didn't repair its image with Monday's indefinite suspension of the Ravens player. The original video clip showed Rice pulling the unconscious woman out of the elevator, so they asked why further video evidence was needed.

"Couldn't they figure that out?" said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a sports management professor at George Washington University.

After the first video's release, a police report confirmed that Rice had knocked his fiancee unconscious. But the latest video evidence forced the Ravens and the NFL to take a stronger stance, said Melissa Jacobs, founder of The Football Girl blog.

"The optics are so powerful," said Jacobs, a former ESPN producer.

She also wondered why the powerful league couldn't obtain the in-elevator footage when TMZ could. The celebrity news site did not disclose how it got the video.

"The league and the Ravens are missing a moral backbone," Jacobs said. "Everything has been reactive."

Some Ravens fans, though, said they remain loyal to the team.

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