By Sarah Burstein, Staff Writer
On Sunday, former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice was reinstated into the NFL. Rice was suspended indefinitely after a video surfaced of him hitting his then-fiancée, Janay Rice (neé Palmer) in an elevator in an Atlantic City, New Jersey casino. Since then, Janay and Ray have married, and the NFL has received major flack over its response to the incident. Some even called for women to boycott the organization and accused the NFL of covering up the event to save face.
The altercation took place the night of Feb. 15, and received attention after gossip website TMZ.com released a video later that month of Ray dragging his unconscious fiancée out of the elevator.
Ray and Janay married the next month and criminal charges against Ray were dropped after he agreed to undergo court-supervised counseling.
In May, Janay and Ray Rice gave a press conference in conjunction with the Ravens, where Janay apologized for her role in the incident and Ray apologized for “the situation he and his wife were in.”
The case was thrust back into the national spotlight in September when TMZ uploaded the full video of the incident. The elevator video also inspired the trending Twitter hashtag, #WhyIStayed, through which victims of domestic violence shared their stories.
The day her husband was reinstated back into the NFL, Janay sat down with Matt Lauer of “The Today Show,” and assured the public that Ray had never assaulted her before. She lamented what her husband had done, but again acknowledged her role in the incident. The night had included heavy drinking, according to Janay, and after the pair entered the elevator, they began to argue.
Mainly, “The Today Show” interview was presented as a way for Janay Rice to break her silence. She implied that the NFL suggested that she apologize at that press conference back in May, but that she also never wanted to “take any light off of what Ray did.”
This isn’t an easy subject, and I realize that. A lot of people have strong, important opinions about this incident, and it is incredibly multifaceted. I grasp that Janay Rice may have also attempted to hit her husband, which is undoubtedly wrong. However, this story really is about much more than Ray and Janay Rice.
One in every four women are victims of domestic abuse. Almost 40 million women have experienced domestic abuse at the hands of a partner. With numbers this shocking, I wonder how it is possible that so many immediately defended Ray Rice. Whether it was standing ovations at his first Ravens practice after news of the incident broke, or fans continuing to wear his jersey to games, these enthusiasts didn’t seem to realize that supporting Ray Rice wasn’t defiantly hip. They instead normalized domestic abuse, all while completely ignoring the fact that another human being was hit to the point where she had to be unconsciously dragged out of an elevator.
This isn’t about fan allegiance or loyalty. This is about recognizing when someone does something wrong. Questioning Janay Rice’s role in the altercation, implying that she deserved to get hit or assuming that she provoked her own assault is victim blaming, as is prying about why Janay chose to stay with Ray after the incident.
Discussion of Ray and Janay Rice may quiet down, now that Rice is back with the NFL and Janay has spoken out, but allowing it to pass by without acknowledging the issue of domestic violence is a disservice to all victims of all genders. Ray Rice is privileged to use this experience and his fame to apologize and could keep the conversation going about domestic abuse. Ray Rice and the NFL may be ready to let the issue go, but I’m not.