Thursday, September 11, 2014


Janay and Ray Rice holding press conference
        Domestic violence is a serious problem in our culture. It is usually hidden from public view. Not so in the case of Ray Rice.
        The recently released video taken by a security camera, showing the Baltimore Ravens’ star running back knocking his then fiancee Janay Palmer unconscious in an elevator back in February has evoked a storm of outrage at the act itself, outrage at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s failure to investigate the incident more thoroughly after seeing an earlier video of Rice dragging her out of the elevator, outrage at the League’s initial lenient disciplinary action of just a two-game suspension for Rice, and outrage at the Ravens’ management and coaches for not immediately denouncing the act more forcefully.
        Even though the couple had had a physical altercation in Atlantic City and had both been arrested by the police and then let go, and even though the couple are now married, and even though the athlete has publicly denounced and apologized for his own actions, and even though Janay is outspokenly supportive of her husband, nothing has assuaged the public anger generated by this incident.
       Following the surfacing of the second video showing what had transpired inside the elevator, the consequences were immediate and much more severe. Rice’s contract with the Baltimore Ravens has been terminated, his lucrative commercial endorsement deals have been canceled, his jersey is being taken off the shelves in sports stores, and the NFL has suspended him indefinitely. As their final degrading gesture, the Ravens have offered his former fans the opportunity to exchange their Ray Rice jerseys for some other number. The once popular gridiron hero has been publicly disgraced.
        Even though Rice deserves to be punished for his brutality, and he certainly has been, there is something that bothers me about the press’s and public’s vengeful attitude. It feels more like a vendetta. Too many people appear to be driven by a desire more for punishment than for rehabilitation and reconciliation, no matter that from all reports Rice’s behavior had been exemplary before this incident, no matter that his conduct on this occasion was apparently alcohol related, no matter that Ray is quite remorseful about what he did. He is currently in a year-long rehab program that deals with spouse abuse, anger management, and related behavioral issues. .
        There is a degree of hypocrisy in the comments I've read or heard from some commentators, for they ignore the beast that lies hidden within themselves and all of us, a beast that is always ready to rear its ugly head, if the provocation is sufficient.  It can happen to the mildest persons. We've all seen how road rage can be triggered in an instant. A man or a woman who is normally even-tempered can be suddenly provoked into a shouting match or even a physical brawl. I witnessed one of those two nights ago, involving a usually dignified and self-controlled elderly gentleman. I’ve seen spectators after one beer too many get into free-for-alls at sporting events, and say and do things they never would do under normal circumstances.
        Ray Rice and his wife are already paying a heavy price financially, professionally, and personally for what he and everyone else knows was a terribly wrongful act of violence. The concern now, however, should be how to help them both to learn from this most regrettable experience, rebuild their lives, and fulfill their marriage vows. I am glad to see that many of their friends are finally coming to their support, not by excusing them but by forgiving them.
        But forgiveness does not seem to be much of a public virtue in our society these days.

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