Firing Ray Rice does not fix the problem [Letter]

September 15, 2014

America, it's time to call it quits on the witch hunts. As my husband wrote on Facebook recently, more people have spent way more time hating Ray Rice than they have spent hating the ISIS folks who beheaded two innocent American sons ("NFL investigation into Ray Rice video raises more questions," Sept. 11).

If it weren't for an elevator camera, no one would know about this particular bit of human ugliness between Ray and his wife. I can tell you right now that I thank heaven for the lack of elevator cameras in some of my moments in life. I've had screaming fights with my husband. He's never hit me, but I can promise you that if you'd seen films of us fighting, you would have been absolutely horrified at the utter failure of our humanity. Or maybe, it was our humanity. Humanity implies that we are not perfect.

And those are the better "bad" moments in which I've been involved. There were a lot more that were worse. So maybe you only think I'm a pretty decent person because you don't know enough about me. You might think differently of me if there had been a camera or two more in my life.

No, I'm not making any confessions here. What if there were elevator cameras more often in your life? What moments in your life, if people knew about them, would cause them to destroy your equivalent of college football footage, to tear up photographs of you, to treat you like a pariah or to sack you from your job in shame? Let's face it, with enough cameras, we'd all get fired.

So what's the better, more intelligent way for a society to come to terms with inappropriate behavior —in a way that we move forward, not engage in a paroxysm of guilt over what to do with your Ray Rice jersey? Should every person who crosses the line of violence be immediately fired? What if it's for getting in a bar fight with another guy? For getting a DUI? For the stupidity of racism? For screwing up their kid's self-esteem? Where do we start and stop in the "let's fire the guy" thinking?

Don't give me this "public figure" stuff. There's way too much of a sliding-slope connecting the various strata of our society to say "this guy has to be held accountable" in the same breath as "this guy gets to be a jerk but since he did it at home and nobody saw, we really can't fire him."

Ray Rice needs to work and he needs to work hard. He needs to understand what drove him to use his wildly superior strength to "win" a fight with his wife. He needs to feel ashamed of what he did — really ashamed — and to own it privately, and make sure he fixes what's angry in him so that he never does it again. He needs to do all that in private. Because that is where we face our demons and grow stronger and heal our relationships. That's what most of us do when we screw up.

But since there was an elevator camera, he needs to do it all publicly as well. To show that people can learn from their mistakes, and learn from the mistakes of others. We all will heal if we see Ray Rice working to heal, to truly come to terms with what he did, to regain his position of respect again. But if we take away everything that is his life, if we shun him from the public eye, how does that happen?

It feels impossible, but it's easy and it should start with the NFL commissioner making an announcement: "After due consideration, we've decided that the better way for Ray Rice to address this matter is to take his place back in society and make amends to his fans and the young people who look up to him in a very public way. We want to extend our support, our encouragement and our high expectations to both Ray Rice and Janay Palmer as they demonstrate for us how a couple overcomes difficult challenges."

Period. Stop talking. Start watching.

Reinstate a man who was born to play football back onto the Ravens so that he has to be a public figure again and watch for him to work. If he falters, help him remember. But help him. In helping him, help her. Help yourself. Help all of us.

Katie Aiken Ritter, Monkton

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