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updated: 8/1/2014 6:35 AM

NFL's shameful Ray Rice charade continues

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  • Video: Harbaugh on his support for Ray Rice

  • Video: Rice apologizes to wife, addresses suspension

  • Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice answers question during a news conference after NFL football training camp, Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Owings Mills, Md.

      Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice answers question during a news conference after NFL football training camp, Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Owings Mills, Md.
    Associated Press

  • Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, right, walks off the field with Justin Forsett before addressing the media at a news conference after NFL football training camp practice, Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Owings Mills, Md.(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

      Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, right, walks off the field with Justin Forsett before addressing the media at a news conference after NFL football training camp practice, Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Owings Mills, Md.(AP Photo/Gail Burton)
    Associated Press

  • Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) talks with head coach John Harbaugh at the end of NFL football training camp practice, Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Owings Mills, Md.

      Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) talks with head coach John Harbaugh at the end of NFL football training camp practice, Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Owings Mills, Md.
    Associated Press

  • Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh hugs Ray Rice (27) after Rice scored a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

      Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh hugs Ray Rice (27) after Rice scored a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

 
 

The NFL's Ray Rice Tour made its latest stop Thursday in Owings Mills, Md., where after practice at the Ravens' training facility Baltimore coach John Harbaugh continued to sound and act like a man who began walking upright sometime in the last week or so.

In recent days, Harbaugh has made statements about Rice such as, "I love the way he's handling it."

Before Thursday, Rice had never publicly apologized to his wife for beating the living daylights out of her, nor had he done much other than talk about the pain he is feeling and say absurdly insensitive remarks like, "Sometimes in life, you will get knocked down."

Yeah, but as the video evidence suggests, not as easy to get back up when you're a woman cold-cocked by a 220-pound NFL running back.

Harbaugh was all smiles again Thursday morning, and when asked about the increased media presence anticipating Rice's news conference, the most visible man in the organization said, "We appreciate attention."

Tone deaf doesn't do justice to describing the inability of the NFL, the Ravens, Rice and -- most of all -- Harbaugh to understand that NFL players beating up women is a horrific, life-changing event that is all too prevalent in their league.

The lasting impression that Roger Goodell and Co. leave is that they really aren't concerned, Harbaugh least of all.

"It's one of two things," says University of Maryland law professor Leigh Goodmark. "Either he doesn't get it, which is troubling, or the decision the team has made is, 'We will keep smiling, keep supporting Ray.'

"In this community, no one is more beloved than Ray Rice. Ray is the guy. People are devastated by this. It's possible the team has decided that Ray is so popular that they can just smile their way through this.

"Either the Ravens are too stupid to understand the gravity of what Rice did or they just don't care. Neither one of those looks particularly good for the Ravens."

Goodmark drives past the Ravens' stadium twice daily on her commute to and from work in Baltimore, a particularly uncomfortable reminder for her since she teaches at the University of Maryland, directs the Gender Violence Clinic and is the 2013 author of, "A Troubled Marriage: Domestic Violence and the Legal System."

The last time we spoke was seven years ago during the outrage over Michael Vick's crimes, when the NFL's quick action against the star QB for harming dogs highlighted the nauseating lack of concern from the NFL over abuse of women.

"The NFL has not taken one step forward in this area. Absolutely not," Goodmark said of the last seven years. "This is a league that helps to create men capable of creating so much damage and being so violent. They teach them on the field to not be so violent, and nothing off the field.

"The NFL could make its mission teaching their players. It could be an amazing message, helping these players learn about themselves. Instead, it sends this message with a two-game suspension.

"Then, it sells pink jerseys we're supposed to buy and calls itself a responsible member of the community."

Rice has been suspended two games for punching his wife so hard in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February that he knocked her out cold and had to drag her limp body into the lobby.

In the last seven years, players have often been suspended many more than two games for DUIs, smoking pot or performance-enhancing drugs.

Browns receiver Josh Gordon is currently appealing a one-year suspension for marijuana use.

Colts defender Robert Mathis is out four games for illegal fertility drugs he said he took in hopes of getting his wife pregnant.

Terrelle Pryor started his NFL career with a five-game suspension for selling memorabilia in exchange for tattoos while in college. Yes, while in college.

But according to statistics from U-T San Diego, 21 NFL teams employed a player in 2013 with a domestic or sexual violence charge on their record.

"Two games? Ridiculous," Goodmark says. "Why bother? What's the message that gets sent there?

"Ben Roethlisberger wasn't prosecuted and he got six games. Rice was charged by police and the district attorney increased the charges to aggravated assault. The state took the case seriously, the employer did not.

"The NFL makes this huge push to increase the proportion of its female audience, and it thinks selling pink jerseys is the answer. Fundamentally, they can't make the connection between the strength and violence of their players and what happens if they use these same attributes in violence against women.

"Basically, the NFL puts the tools in their hands, doesn't educate and then won't take responsibility when they use them."

Just as disturbing has been the reaction of men with powerful voices, like Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, who -- when the story broke -- wondered if perhaps a "different story" would eventually come out.

Now, what could that possibly be? That Janay Rice instigated and therefore deserved a good old-fashioned wife beating?

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 25 percent of women will be victims of domestic abuse sometime during their life.

U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 2-3 million women per year are physically abused in the U.S. On average, three women are murdered by husbands or boyfriends in this country every day. And homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women.

A national survey of American families found that 50 percent of men who frequently assaulted their wives also frequently abused their children, and the book "Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL," reported the most prevalent crime among NFL players was domestic violence.

And, yet, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith earned a suspension for comments about domestic abuse suggesting women should make sure that they don't do anything to provoke an attack. In other words, Mrs. Rice deserved it.

"That's just vulgar," Goodmark said. "You think some days we've made some headway in terms of changing the cultural norms surrounding domestic violence, and then someone like him says maybe she got knocked out because she had it coming.

"The underlying cultural norms are not shifting and it's a huge, huge problem for those of us who devote our lives to this issue."

At least Rice apologized Thursday, though Goodmark thinks we're missing the point.

"The culture of violence in the NFL led him to believe this wouldn't be a big deal, and the disproportionate punishment is disturbing," Goodmark explained. "This shouldn't be about what he says or doesn't say.

"He knocked her out cold. It's on video. Two games. It's appalling.

"He might legitimately be sorry. I'm OK with that, too. Sometimes they're not monsters. He's a person. People make bad choices. Hate the sin, not the sinner. I hope he really is sorry.

"His own personal forgiveness may be enough for her, but it's not enough to send a message to society that this behavior is wrong."

As for all the criticism Janay Rice has received for marrying him, staying with him, apologizing for her part or forgiving him, Goodmark says that's also missing the point entirely.

"Since we lasted talked seven years ago, I've learned a lot about that side of it," Goodmark says. "My heart goes out to her. She's chosen to marry him and she's entitled to make that choice.

"In the book, I wrote a lot about letting women choose for themselves, giving the power back to women.

"She's been roundly criticized for marrying him and many other choices that are her fault, but she's a grown woman who has a child with this man and maybe she believes this will be a safe and stable relationship, and she's committed to helping him.

"But those who blame her for any part of this just further a dangerous and disturbing notion."

In seven years, as has been the case for several thousand, that hasn't changed at all.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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