[Trigger warning for domestic abuse]
Ray Rice beat his fiancee unconscious in a casino elevator. In February of this year, he and then fiancee Janay Palmer (now Janay Rice) were both arrested for a domestic altercation — a “very minor” one, Ray’s attorney said — caught on surveillance video. In fact, footage leaked to TMZ showed Ray dragging Janay*, unconscious, out of an elevator, and simple assault charges were dropped against her; he was indicted for third-degree aggravated assault.
He was given a two-game suspension by the NFL (which has been compared to the six-game suspension hung on Ben Roethlisberger for sexually assaulting a white woman, and Michael Vick’s league exile and prison time for dogfighting) and admitted into a pre-trial intervention program to avoid prosecution. (I mean, we didn’t really know what happened in that elevator to render her unconscious, right?) And the Baltimore Ravens tweeted in May — and then deleted today — this apology:
(I didn’t say it was their apology.)
Today, footage was released of the actual attack — Ray slapping her, then punching her, then standing nonchalantly over her unconscious body until they arrived at their floor and the elevator doors opened. Now unable to pretend that Janay’s limp body was the result of anything other than a beating at the hands of her fiance, the Ravens dropped Ray, and the NFL has suspended him indefinitely.
To be clear: Janay’s unconscious body and Ray’s admission of guilt and indictment for aggravated assault earned him a two-game suspension. The video from inside the elevator changed nothing about the facts but everything about the optics, thus the league’s choice to ultimately save face by handing him (almost) the penalty he deserved.
The Baltimore Ravens and the NFL get no credit for doing something good here. They get a minor amount of credit for finally getting close to what they should have done back when the first evidence appeared that the casino altercation was more than just “very minor,” when the first video showed that whatever happened in the elevator, Ray came out conscious and Janay didn’t. Throughout the spring, they dropped to negative ten, and now they’re back up to around zero. Covering their collective asses was nothing more than a self-serving act, and the fact that it happened to result in further penalty for Ray Rice was a convenient accident. It was no less than could be expected, almost literally the least they could do. If this incident can at least be used to shame them into paying some amount of attention to domestic violence, we can call it a draw. But we also can’t forget that their first instinct was to throw blame on the survivor of Ray’s assault, and their current instinct is still to deny responsibility because, well, without having video of Ray’s fist connecting with Janay’s face, they really had no way of knowing what happened.
*First name used not out of disrespect or familiarity but to avoid confusion, since both Ray and Janay now share the same last name.