As Deadspin and others have been noting today, when the NFL handed down its two-game suspension of Ray Rice back in July, notable NFL reporters said that there was additional video, which the NFL had seen, that might be exculpatory to some degree, of Rice. The suggestion, was that while Janay Palmer Rice had presumably been knocked unconscious by Rice in the elevator, perhaps she played a role in provoking the encounter. Palmer herself had apologized during that disturbing press conference in May. And it was reported that she did so again when she and Rice met with the commissioner in June to discuss the incident.
Jane McManus and others pointed out that having Rice in the room with Palmer while they discussed the incident ran contrary to every insight those experienced with domestic violence say we know about such dynamics. If there were a pattern of abuse, it would be typical for the victim to blame herself for her partner’s violence. Therefore, her own words, in that context, with her abuser in the room, would be seriously compromised. We don’t know what the nature of their relationship was beyond the one night. But it was the height of insensitivity and ignorance for Goodell and his coterie to fail to account for that possibility.
Goodell admitted a couple of weeks ago that he got the Rice suspension wrong. It should have been more severe, he acknowledged and the commissioner immediately announced stiffer penalties for all future domestic violence cases involving NFL players.
All of that seems to ring especially hollow today. Unless all those reporters got it wrong back in July, the league (and the Ravens) already had access to the newly released TMZ video. That video, of course, established definitively what most people already assumed – that Palmer Rice ended up unconscious on the floor of an elevator as a result of an assault by Rice. What the new video also does is demolish any conceivable claim that Rice was somehow defending himself, or that Palmer Rice was attacking him or whatever. To be clear, none of those claims would have justified Rice’s actions in any case. But the general public could not see, before today, exactly what had happened. The NFL and the Ravens, on the other hand, did apparently know, though they are now denying that.
Maybe Peter King, Chris Mortenson and others got it wrong in July when they said the league had seen video that complicated what had seemed apparent in the original video. If they were wrong, then the equally unsavory possibility emerges that someone associated with the NFL was trying to smear Palmer Rice in order to justify its original suspension, especially after the public reaction to it was so strongly negative.
Either way, the Ravens’ decision today to release Rice and the NFL’s imposition of an indefinite suspension, while necessary, will do little to mitigate the fallout from a disgracefully handled episode.