By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) — One NFL team cuts a player for merely keeping unsavory company, while another goes out of its way to make excuses for a guy who knocked his fiancée out cold in an elevator.
Here’s the video of what Ravens running back Ray Rice did to Janay Palmer. See for yourself. A New Jersey grand jury watched it, too, and was provided further evidence that resulted in a new, more serious charge of aggravated assault being added to the previous charge of simple assault from February 15th. Rice faces three to five years in prison if convicted.
This is all pretty much fine with the Ravens, who decided the best course of action would be a defiant, public show of support from ownership, and weaselly enabling by the head coach. Ray Rice knocked a woman unconscious, and they seem to think he’s a swell dude who just found himself in some unfortunate circumstances.
Welcome to Baltimore, where Ray Lewis is still a civic treasure despite being convicted of obstruction of justice after a double homicide. At the very least he knows who killed Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, and any reasonable person has concluded he probably abetted the crime and/or the getaway. This is the city where a video threatening witnesses to “Stop Snitchin’” was produced in 2004, proudly including famed resident Carmelo Anthony in the campaign to intimidate those who would help police investigate criminal behavior. In that context, then, turning your girl’s lights out is like being double-parked.
I’m still waiting for a local voice there to take issue with the Ravens’ insulting lack of judgment, hoping in vain for one person to use a professional space to call them out appropriately for all but condoning Rice’s actions. Owner Steve Bisciotti gave the verbal equivalent of two middle fingers to domestic violence victims, saying “I don’t know of any other player that’s ever generated as much goodwill in our building and in our community as Ray has in those six years.”
Lovely, right? And there’s so much more from the team’s website. “I have to have compassion for him,” Bisciotti said. “He’ll be back with the team. He’ll definitely be back. Ray has not experienced any [adversity]. He’s just been lauded as the nicest, hardest working, greatest guy on the team and in the community, so we have to support him.”
John Harbaugh, meanwhile, made sure the focus remained on the real culprit, demon rum. “When you drink too much in public, those kinds of things happen,” he said. “You can’t get drunk at a bar.”
So it’s not even just the drinking itself that somehow makes a player’s fists fly into a woman’s face otherwise against his will, it’s the fact that it was in public where prying eyes can see, and here we go with that whole Baltimore thing with witnesses, again. In Harbaugh’s world, presumably it’s better to get your load on behind closed doors, so nobody’s around to be snitchin’ if you throw a casual slap at the missus when she gets out of line.
Rice and Palmer just got married, and are said to already be in counseling, getting a head-start on the inevitable. Here’s hoping her wedding registry includes comprehensive health insurance and gift cards for the emergency room.
Husbands who do this tend to keep doing it, with the complicated, counter-intuitive pathology of the battered wife all now too well known. The dependent relationship creates the cycle of violence, contrition, and futile belief in positive behavioral change. And that applies not just for couples, but for teams and their star players.
It would be so easy for Bisciotti to express even an iota of awareness that Rice did a very bad thing, indicating some belief in there somewhere that this repugnant act is unacceptable to the Baltimore Ravens, and then allowing the legal proceedings to run their course. Instead, he sent the message that he accepts it, using an insolent tone that comes way too close to outright endorsement.
Baltimore is silent, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will have something to say.
Thankfully, so will prosecutors in New Jersey.