Sports

Dan Shaughnessy

In Ray Rice case, one failure after another

Things moved quickly on NFL Monday.

At 4 a.m., TMZ released video showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice delivering a left cross to the face of his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City casino elevator back on Feb. 15. Palmer was knocked out cold.

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Reaction was predictable. Social media exploded and there were calls for Rice to be banished from the NFL. There were also suggestions that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell be fired if he had seen this video before handing out his hideous two-game suspension.

At 10:08 a.m., the NFL issued a statement in which it contended that the video was not available to the league when Goodell delivered his wrist-slap to Rice.

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At 2:18 p.m., the Ravens announced that Rice had been released.

At 2:41 p.m., the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely.

At 7 p.m., the Giants and Lions kicked off at Ford Field in downtown Detroit.

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On this horrible day in NFL history, justice was swift and opinion was unanimous; Rice was removed from football, at least for now. But it made you wonder: How did so many organizations fail, and what would have happened if the new video never surfaced?

TMZ had posted a video in February that showed Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of the elevator. Seeing the new video makes it hard to believe Rice avoided jail time. Rice married Palmer a month after the punch and, as so often happens, Mrs. Rice asked for leniency for her husband. Rice agreed to a one-year pretrial diversion program that involves counseling. In the eyes of the court, Rice is a first-time offender and therefore he got the benefit of the doubt.

Goodell had a chance to correct things after meeting with all parties in the league office on June 16. The NFL is not a court of law. Playing in the league is a privilege. Even without the video, Goodell could have suspended Rice for a full season. Instead, he insulted battered spouses everywhere by suspending Rice for two games. Goodell later admitted that he “didn’t get it right” and in August, he revamped the league’s domestic abuse policy.

This may go down as Goodell’s defining moment. Pete Rozelle went to his grave saying he wished he had not allowed NFL games to be played the weekend after the JFK assassination. Goodell forever will regret his two-game suspension of Rice.

The Ravens, meanwhile, simply look like fools, and they get NO POINTS for releasing Rice after the new video came out. The organization’s actions between Feb. 15 and Sept. 7 forever will stamp the Ravens as a gullible, gutless, and enabling organization. The Ravens no doubt will tell us that Rice lied to them but that is no excuse for their boosterism on behalf of a woman-beater.

The Ravens supported Rice from Day 1. Back in July, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said, “I stand behind Ray. He’s a heck of a guy.’’ A Ravens vice president was allowed to publish an “I Like Ray Rice” missive. On May 23, the Ravens Twitter account sent out this: “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.’’

Wow. The team actually wanted us to go along with the dangerous notion that the woman was asking for it. The team went out of its way to remind us that Janay Rice regretted her role in getting KO’d by Ray Rice. The franchise used the battered woman to make things easier for her abusive, cowardly husband.

Just a few weeks ago, the Ravens home page featured a photo of Rice under a headline that read, “Ravens fans give Rice standing ovation.’’

Oh, and any time the Ravens were asked about punishing their own player, they said it was a league matter.

That’s beyond weak. And it will stay with them. It makes me angry to hear that the Ravens “did the right thing” Monday. They had no choice. In the words of Ray Ratto of CSNBayarea.com, “P.R. is why they cut him.’’

Ravens fans defiantly cheered for the woman-beater when he returned to practice this summer. Some fans were still wearing Ray Rice jerseys when the Ravens played host to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday. Rice was scheduled to return to work this Friday after Thursday night’s game, and no doubt some of the blind followers wanted to have a parade down Calvert Street for Ray.

Not now. There is video.

The NFL is our true national pastime in 2014. It is a perfect television show and it satisfies our primal hungers for violent collisions, wagering, and fantasy leagues. The league survives everything. There’s ample evidence that its players are permanently harming themselves, but still the players want to play and the fans come back for more.

No problem. Everybody loves hot dogs. Just don’t show us how they are made.

The introduction of this video is what changed everything in this case, but that’s a scary notion because we all know there have been equally lenient sanctions imposed on equally heinous crimes through the years, but nobody knew because there was no video.

Men can’t hit women. That’s it. Ray Rice had to go. And now he is gone.

But what if there were no video?

Follow Dan Shaughnessy on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.
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