The story shouldn’t be news at all.
Ray Rice, former running back for the Baltimore Ravens NFL football team, is back on the front page over a domestic violence incident that happened in February 15. The Ravens team is terminating Rice’s contract because of newly released video footage showing Rice punching his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, inside an Atlantic City hotel elevator. (Palmer and Rice are now married.)
The story isn’t new. Video footage released earlier showed what happened after the elevator doors opened: Rice is seen holding an unconscious Palmer by her feet and dragging her out of the elevator. At one point he pushes her legs together with his foot.
Shortly after the story broke in February, both parties were arrested, but charges against Janay Palmer were quickly dropped. Rice was indicted by a grand jury and avoided jail time by entering a pretrial diversionary program. The NFL suspended Rice for two games and fined him half a million dollars.
Now there’s additional footage of the incident, made public by TMZ on September 8, showing the couple arguing in the elevator: She shoves him, and he responds by hitting her face with his hand—hard enough to knock her unconscious. Shortly after the footage was released, the NFL increased the volume on its outrage and terminated Rice. “It’s something we saw for the first time today,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh after viewing the footage. “It changed things, of course. It made things a little bit different.”
Women’s advocates and domestic violence experts are expressing bewilderment about how the case was handled—both by police and by the NFL. (Neither the prosecutor nor the police are answering questions about how the case was handled.) No one ever doubted that Rice had attacked Palmer. The additional video footage is graphic but doesn’t change our understanding of what Rice did. Why a termination now? Why the sudden gasps of outrage now?
Amy Davidson, a writer for The New Yorker, notes that the NFL—despite protests to the contrary—had access to both video segments back in February, when the two-game suspension was handed down. Did NFL officials ever watch them? Apparently not.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, describing the newly released video as “violent and horrifying,” is apologizing for the NFL’s sloppy handling of the incident. “We should have pursued our investigation more vigorously. We didn’t and we were wrong.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says he regrets the earlier two-game suspension, explaining that he “didn’t get it right” about Ray Rice earlier this year. Thanks to a few seconds of grainy surveillance video, he and the rest of the sports world finally understand that a fight between a woman and a professional football player can never be a fair match.
What took them so long?
To learn more:
Jean Reynolds, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of English at Polk State College, where she taught report writing and communication skills in the criminal justice program. She is the author of ten books, including Police Talk (Pearson), and she publishes a Police Writer Newsletter. Visit her website at www.YourPoliceWrite.com for free report writing resources. Go to www.Amazon.com for a free preview of her book Criminal Justice Report Writing. Dr. Reynolds is the police report writing expert for Law Enforcement Today.