Police report told Ravens, NFL all they needed to know about Rice incident

September 09, 2014|Peter Schmuck

The Ravens and the National Football League finally delivered a strong and decisive response to the ugly Ray Rice domestic violence incident on Monday, but the rush to "get it right" after getting it wrong for nearly seven months will only raise more questions about the league's incoherent approach to serious disciplinary issues.

First and foremost, what really changed on Monday, when the other shoe finally dropped and the video from the elevator at the Revel casino in Atlantic City, N.J., showed up on the celebrity scandal website TMZ Sports?

Did NFL commissioner Roger Goodell just figure out that Rice punched his then-fiance hard enough to knock her unconscious?

Did the Ravens just realize that a guy who dropped his soon-to-be wife with a haymaker Feb. 15 doesn't belong on the cover of next year's media guide?

It's amazing how many people remained in denial for so long when nobody ever really denied anything.

Rice and Janay Palmer were both initially arrested for simple assault after Rice was caught pulling his unconscious fiance out of that elevator. The charges against Palmer were dropped and the charges against Rice were upgraded to aggravated assault six weeks later after the case was presented to a grand jury.

To that point, there was still some doubt about what happened in that elevator, but once the charges were expanded, it should have been obvious there was strong evidence that the assault was egregious.

League officials claimed on Monday morning that they were never given access to the video, but there is plenty of reason to believe they knew what was on it, especially since the police report said that Rice struck her with his hand, "rendering her unconscious."

Though the NFL was right to be deliberate in its attempt to marshal as much information as possible before imposing its initial suspension on Rice, that makes it even harder to imagine how Goodell and his advisors could have misread the situation so badly.

To be fair, the same could be said about the district attorney who decided it was appropriate to allow Rice to enter a diversionary program for first offenders rather than face prosecution for such a vicious attack.

Goodell met face-to-face with Rice and his new wife and obviously was satisfied that they were taking the right steps to prevent any future domestic violence. He apparently took into account Rice's contribution to the community and the fact that he had no record of prior bad acts before deciding to suspend him for only the first two games of the 2014 season.

He admitted that he got that wrong when he announced the league's new domestic violence policy in August and he finally had no choice but to get it right on Monday when the still-shocking video of Rice knocking his fiancee senseless went viral.

Still, it's fair to ask how he went from two games to a new domestic violence policy that called for a six-game suspension for a first offense to a new standard that apparently calls for an indefinite suspension for a first offense if there's embarrassing video of it on the internet.

It's just fine for everyone to be repulsed by those images. This will long be remembered as a watershed moment of social enlightenment for the NFL and the rest of professional sports, and rightfully so. Goodell and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti really had no choice other than to separate themselves from Ray Rice, even if the act of suspending and releasing him so abruptly confirmed that every decision impacting such a visible and successful business comes down to a public relations calculus.

Let's not be naïve. They already knew what happened and — until Monday — they were content to let Rice come back for the Cleveland Browns game in two weeks and begin the long process of rebuilding his reputation.

That didn't change until TMZ rubbed their noses in this tawdry incident one more time and robbed them of their last shred of deniability.

It was a terrible incident and Rice will pay for it for the rest of his life, not to mention whatever is left of his football career. The road back will be a long one, but there can be redemption at the end of it.

If you need proof, they unveiled a new statue outside M&T Bank on Thursday.

pschmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

ALSO SEE:

VIDEO: Harbaugh says Rice video "changed things"

VIDEO: Ravens cut Ray Rice

VIDEO: TMZ video shows Rice knocking out fiancee


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