Author’s note: The views below are mine alone and do not represent the views of others in the Jenkins family.
First things first. I don’t hit girls. Never have, and have no plans to.
That said, I find myself holding out a proverbial helping hand to Ray Rice today — and that’s after watching the now-infamous video of him knocking out his then-fiancee (now wife) in an Atlantic City elevator.
The now former Baltimore Raven’s left hook to Janay Palmer’s face was tough to watch — every bit as tough as watching Beyonce’s sister open up a can of whoop-ass on Jay-Z. If Mr. Rice were my son I would be extremely disappointed in him. Like everyone in the world save Mr. and Mrs. Rice, I have no idea what preceded the punch or what, if anything, then-Ms. Palmer said or did to get her NFL boyfriend so furious. I’m guessing something happened: the video shows her getting in his face and they appear to be spitting on each other. Whatever (if anything) it was, I would have hoped my son would have had more self control.
But what I find just as unseemly is the race to pile on and punish Mr. Rice in the wake of TMZ Sports’s release of the aforementioned video yesterday.
The Ravens released their long-time running back almost immediately. The video “changed things,” his now-former coach told us. Why? Ravens management saw the video of Mr. Rice dragging his unconscious now-wife out of an elevator months ago. Did they think he knocked her out with Starbucks breath? New Jersey’s criminal complaint stated that Rice struck his fiancee “with his hand, rendering her unconscious” — exactly what the video showed. Me thinks Ravens management concluded their once-beloved star would be forever doomed to bad guy status once this video went viral and, seeing little upside to standing behind their once-dominant-but-now-past-his-prime running back, they booted him — and his considerable contract — out of town. Politics over principle — shame on them.
A victim-maker in February, Ray Rice now finds himself a victim of another sort.
I wonder if the Ravens would have severed ties with Mr. Rice in 2012, when he was coming off a career year that saw him gain over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. They didn’t come down as hard (or at all) on Terrell Suggs in 2011 when a court issued a protective order against their star linebacker based on a series of very detailed allegations that portrayed him as an unspeakable monster. (More.) Mr. Suggs was at the peak of his career then.
The NFL’s indefinite suspension of Mr. Rice is another matter. The league took a PR beating for its initial two-game suspension of Mr. Rice — way too lenient, the masses screamed. Sensing public opinion was against him, the ever image-conscious Roger Goodell later concluded that he hadn’t punished the theretofore model citizen harshly enough and announced the NFL’s new domestic abuse policy — six week ban for a first offense, lifetime ban thereafter. NFL mucky mucks, who Goodell insists didn’t see the inside-the-elevator tape until a few days ago, upped the penalty from two games to “indefinite” once the video went viral. But this was the once-model citizen’s first offense, and indefinite is not six weeks. What gives?
Then there’s everyone else. I’ve followed this story fairly closely for the past forty-eight hours and know of only two people — Mrs. Rice and conservative African-American commentator Dr. Ben Carlson — who have suggested that everyone should put down their pitch forks. No one’s even curious about background or context. Nothing, the self righteous scream with indignation, could justify Mr. Rice’s left hook, and anyone who even considers as much should lose their job. I wonder. Suppose I called an African-American the n-word and the object of my derision became so enraged that he killed me. Think a sizable minority in the typing class would opine that my killer should be excused, or at least be entitled to a lesser conviction than murder? I do. Just last week a good (and very bright) friend of mine insisted to me that a white police officer’s killing of a black man justified citywide looting in Ferguson, Missouri — looting against business owners, I might add, who’s only “crime” was owning a business in Ferguson. Now I don’t know what Ms. Palmer did or said (if anything) to her fiancee that got him so enraged; perhaps she went Solange on him where the cameras weren’t rolling. I don’t know, but I’d like to. That no one else seems to care a wit is what bothers me most. Everyone else seems angry; better get angry, too.
Which brings me back to Mr. Rice and why I find myself hoping he emerges from this very dark spell. Like him, I’ve had a few moments I wish I could have back (mine, and perhaps his, alcohol-fueled). And like him, I’ve been on the underside of a the-facts-don’t-matter avalanche; in my case the avalanche was my own state’s government. That experience landed me in jail three times, twice as an alleged fugitive from a state I’d never set foot in, and cost me a bundle. It took almost two years for judges to take a deep breath and consider the facts, but ultimately their exonerating opinion didn’t matter because their superiors re-wrote the law to put my then-company out of business. It’s a lonely feeling when you get steamrolled by The Machine, especially when you’ve otherwise led an exemplary life, as I like to think I have and a good many people say Mr. Rice has. (E.g., 1I2.)
He hit a girl no doubt. But Ray Rice didn’t deserve to lose his job and his career because he had the misfortune of screwing up on video. The NFL is chock full of monsters. Mr. Rice isn’t one of them.