In the span of less than a year, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has gone from one of the most beloved players on his team to the unquestioned villain of the NFL.
After startling video showing Rice assaulting his then-fiancée was released by TMZ on September 8, the Ravens made the difficult choice, but the only choice, to terminate Ray Rice’s contract with the team.
How did the situation reach this climax 205 days after the incident that netted first a two-game suspension? The following is a timeline of the events that took place.
|February 15||Ray Rice arrested in Atlantic City|
|February 19||Video released showing Rice dragging his fiancée’s body away from elevator|
|March 27||Rice indicted on third-degree aggravated assault|
|March 28||Rice and fiancée Janay Palmer are married|
|May 20||Rice avoids trial, accepted into diversionary program|
|June 16||NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell meets with Rice, wife, and Ravens reps|
|July 24||NFL suspends Rice for the first two games of the 2014 season|
|August 28||NFL creates new domestic violence policy including lifetime ban for 2nd offense|
|September 8||TMZ releases complete video of assault|
|September 8||Ravens release Ray Rice|
|September 8||NFL suspends Rice indefinitely|
The video evidence is damning for Rice, and the public outcry after being able to see his crime led to him currently being unemployed in the NFL and a backlash at the former star running back and the league for its initial handling of the incident.
Before he was cut, current and former NFL players had some strong words for Rice once the video leaked, suggesting he may never play again. Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton tweeted, “That man should be thrown out the the nfl and thrown into jail. Shame on those deciding his punishment.”
Former NFL linebacker Scott Fujuta said, “I’m glad no one this morning seems to care about yesterday’s games. This piece of [expletive] needs to be out of the league. Period.”
“Am I the only one who believes it should be a lifetime ban for the first time a player commits domestic violence? They should be done period,” Brady Quinn tweeted.
The speculation that Rice may never play another down in the NFL is understandable but also unprecedented. While it’s entirely possible, let’s take into account players like Brandon Marshall and Greg Hardy. Both have been convicted of significant domestic violence acts and continue to play on Sundays. If there was a camera rolling when they committed their crimes, a social media circus like Rice’s would have undoubtedly followed.
Donté Stallworth, Leonard Little, and Michael Vick were all convicted of crimes that resulted in the loss of life and they were able to resume their playing careers for years afterward.
In the instant-gratification society that we have in 2014, it’s easy to say that his egregious act should result in a lifetime ban from the NFL. It remains to be seen if he’ll play again, but if the past is any indication Rice will get a second chance.
The Ravens have no choice but to move forward and distance themselves from Rice, and have recently announced that they will allow fans to exchange their Ray Rice jersey at team stores.
Rutgers, Rice’s alma mater, has already begun the process of disassociating themselves from their former star running back. According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Rutgers is removing all Ray Rice images from all school material. This coincides with stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Modell’s, and NFL Shop, who have discontinued all Ray Rice merchandise.
On the field, the Ravens are left with a hole at the running back position. Bernard Pierce, who was expected to start in place of Rice during the first two games this season, fumbled in Week 1 and was subsequently benched for the remainder of the game. Veteran journeyman Justin Forsett was surprisingly effective, rushing 11 times for 70 yards and a touchdown. Forsett will likely lead the team in carries in future games this season.
Baltimore could opt to sign a veteran free agent running back like BenJarvus Green-Ellis or LaMichael James as a placeholder before rebuilding the position in the offseason.
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh succinctly summarized the release of the new video by simply saying, “It changed things.”
For six seasons, Ray Rice brought joy to the Baltimore Raven fan base. He had two seasons in which he eclipsed 2,000 yards from scrimmage and was a major contributor to the 2012 Super Bowl championship team. He worked extensively in the community, bringing an infectious smile with him wherever he went.
Now he sits unemployed because of one night in which he made the worst mistake of his life.
Ray Rice’s story has transcended sports and evolved into a national media headline. It has increased awareness for domestic violence and Rice will have to live with the fact that no one is responsible for this but himself.
Scott DeWeese is a geographer from the Baltimore area. One of the final graduates of the University of Maryland from the ACC era, DeWeese is an avid sports writer and fan. When he’s not looking up remedies to counteract male pattern baldness, you can probably find him at Camden Yards or checking the fantasy football waiver wire. Follow him on Twitter @ScottDeWeese.