Feature photo courtesy of Keith Allison.
Ray Rice hasn’t tweeted since Feb. 12, 2014 – three days before his arrest in Atlantic City on simple domestic assault charges after a physical altercation with his then-fiancé.
The early morning of Feb. 15 was a day that changed the way the public viewed the running back, who had been one of the NFL’s poster boys for community involvement and goodwill.
But it wasn’t until nearly six months later – Sept. 8, 2014 – that Rice’s professional career was derailed by a video on social media.
Almost eleven months have passed since Deadspin leaked footage of Rice appearing to punch his fiancé, Janay Palmer, who’s now his wife, unconscious in a casino elevator and drag her out.
Rice’s experience was just one in 2014, which could be dubbed as the year of the domestic violence incidents, as several NFL players engaged in situations akin to Rice’s. So it’s fair to ask why, on the brink of a new season, Rice is the only one yet to receive a second chance?
I woke up that September morning stunned at what filled my Twitter timeline. Scrolling through Facebook, my news source Apps and the like left me sick to my stomach. That video was everywhere. So was everyone’s opinion.
Rice was a man I rooted for. I had watched as he became involved in my Howard County community on an anti-cyberbullying campaign after a high school student across town committed suicide.
I met him twice: both times in the Ravens’ hotel lobby the night before the AFC Championship game in 2012 and 2013 against the Patriots. I knew he had better things to do than take a picture with my sister and I, but that didn’t stop him from putting his arms around us and smiling. I can’t say the same for some of his teammates.
His February arrest worried me, but with a two-game suspension and a bevy of harm on his once-pristine reputation, I figured Rice would take his second chance and never go down that track again.
I was right about one thing. Rice has yet to have another domestic incident with his wife. Still, he’s waiting on a second chance.
The Ravens’ second game of the 2014 season, the second of Rice’s two-game, was a Thursday night contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Baltimore. The next day, Rice would have return to the team. He fell three days short.
The video leaked the Monday before, and within hours, the Ravens terminated his contract, and the NFL placed an indefinite ban on Rice’s involvement in the league. Three days and a video was the difference between Rice resuming his NFL livelihood and his situation today.
Yet, Rice’s fallout wasn’t the only time the NFL found themselves in a public relations firestorm over domestic violence last season.
On Sept. 17, 2014, Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson and Carolina Panthers star pass-rusher Greg Hardy were placed on their respective team’s Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List.
A few months prior, Hardy assumed 18 months of probation and a 60-day suspended jail sentence for assaulting a female and communicating threats. Days after Rice’s video leaked, police arrested Peterson for negligent injury to a child.
All were heinous accusations and verdicts. All unfathomable outcomes none of the victims deserved. All but Rice were shuffled to the side with a full season’s pay in 2014. All but Rice are employed by an NFL team entering training camp this season.
Why? Because Rice had video. And the social media reaction to that video – the disgusted posts from fans and NFL players alike poured across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
And the personal reactions to that video. The ones that weren’t expressed.
I’m beyond fortunate to have grown up in a family with two parents who have never laid a hand on me, my siblings or each other. While I try to sympathize with those victims that have, I understand it’s impossible for me to have that perspective now.
I believe it’s the same case for many of those social media onlookers who weighed in on the Rice saga before and after seeing the footage. I could read the police report from Rice’s, Peterson’s and Hardy’s cases, but until I saw the image of domestic violence on my phone screen, I had no basis of imagination in my head.
Rice is such a volatile subject around the NFL these days because we saw him throw the punch. We didn’t witness Hardy beat his girlfriend and threaten to shoot her or Peterson whip his son with a switch until he bled.
The public’s reaction to seeing Rice’s act, and perhaps to seeing that type of crime for the first time, is what’s kept NFL owners and coaches at bay for giving Rice a second chance. They might cite his declining production and career-worst year in 2013 as reason for his unemployment, but the root of his absence is the video proof.
So while Peterson and Hardy gear up for the 2015 season, Rice will wait for a call. He might watch teams lose their running backs to training camp or preseason injuries only for his phone to stay silent.
But some organization needs to take a chance on Rice. Give him a team to be a part of again. Give him a community to build a new involvement. Give him an outlet to show his remorse.
After all, we’ve learned actions speak louder than words.
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