Ray Rice, wife make first public appearance since release of elevator video

Ex-Raven and wife attend football game at his former high school in New York

  • Holding daughter, Ray Rice (left) is photographed on the sidelines of New Rochelle HS football game. Janay is in the black cap.
Holding daughter, Ray Rice (left) is photographed on the sidelines… (WABC-TV 7 NY )
September 13, 2014|By Yvonne Wenger and Aaron Wilson | The Baltimore Sun

Ray Rice and his wife, Janay, on Saturday made their first public appearance since a video surfaced Monday showing the former star Ravens running back knocking her out in a casino elevator and he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

The couple returned to the place where Rice was once a celebrated all-state player — his hometown of New Rochelle, N.Y. — to see his former high school football team play Ramapo of Spring Valley, N.Y.

Rice was greeted warmly at the game while walking onto the sideline with his wife and daughter, Rayven, hugging his high school coach, Lou DiRenzio, according to the New York Post. Rice won a state championship playing for New Rochelle, but his retired jersey was removed from the high school gymnasium last week after the incident. Rutgers, where Rice was an All-American, has also removed his photographs and name from its stadium, saying it's because he's no longer an active NFL player.

Earlier in the week, some in New Rochelle, a suburb of New York City, were standing firmly behind Rice after the video was released.

Walking from the high school in his purple New Rochelle uniform, senior Bryce Davis said he wants his hometown to support Rice. He said all the good Rice has done for the community shouldn't be forgotten in the wake of the incident.

"I think he's still a role model. He had a perfect reputation," said Davis, 17, a running back. "He made a mistake. He would never do it again. She still loves him. Everyone makes mistakes."

Davis said Rice bought the football team new uniforms, Nike gear and the high-end Beats by Dre headphones for the players a couple of years ago.

In his 2005 New Rochelle yearbook, Rice was named a "future pro athlete" among the senior superlatives. He listed his full name "Raymell Rice" and the Bible verse "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." In a message next to his portrait that shows him wearing a tux and bow tie, he thanked his mother, called her his "#1 fan," and recognized his brothers and sister, "who look up to me as their role model."

"The Hollow" housing project in New Rochelle is one place Rice's name is still revered. A dozen or more of the young men clustered at a few tables and benches inside its leafy courtyard all tried to talk at once when his name came up, and some point toward the sixth story of one of the project's large brick buildings where Rice was raised.

They said, "He is a good man" and "Put him back in the league" and "We all make mistakes."

At the basketball court across the street, O'Neil Ashley said that while he's never met Rice, he's impressed by all the things he's heard about the generosity the Super Bowl champ has shown his hometown.

"He never forgets where he came from," said Ashley, 17, a freshman at Monroe College, which sits across the street from The Hollow. "I understand what he did was wrong. For them to kick him out is preposterous."

In front of the asphalt court is a sign declaring "The Hollow Courts" as a place "Where Dreams Become Reality." It features a 2011 quote from Rice in white letters on a purple background: "When people told me that I wouldn't be able to accomplish something, it just made me work harder to prove them wrong."

Keith Fentress said he remembers the day the sign was unveiled. It was big celebration with the New Rochelle mayor and Rice in attendance. Fentress remembers clearly a speech Rice gave, directed mostly at the young people there, warning them about the consequences a single mistake can have on their lives.

"'One mistake could change your life,' he preached that. It was intuition. That's why I know it's a mistake," said Fentress, a 45-year-old bus driver.

Rice was initially suspended for two games for violating the NFL personal-conduct policy. The Ravens terminated his $35 million contract and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell increased his punishment Monday after the video was released. Rice was charged with felony aggravated assault after being arrested in February at Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., and was accepted into a pretrial intervention program.

Goodell notified the NFL Players Association on Friday that Rice was suspended indefinitely because his version of the altercation with his then-fiancee was "starkly different" from the one shown on the video that surfaced earlier in the week.

The NFLPA is strongly considering filing a grievance on behalf of Rice with or without his approval, according to sources. Concerns have been raised by the players union, per sources, about due process over Rice's increased punishment from the NFL.

Meanwhile, sources say that Rice is considering hiring a crisis management firm to advise him.

yvonne.wenger@baltsun.com

aaron.wilson@baltsun.com

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