"What does this say to my daughter? It's OK for a man to hit you as long as he asks you to marry him?" Williams, 44, said as she reflected on the case while sitting at the Inner Harbor.

"If I was the wife, I wouldn't marry him," said her daughter, Heaven Williams, who starts fourth grade next month.

Others say they believe Rice deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Diane Johnston, 61, of Forest Hill said she has followed Rice's career and personal life through social media.

"I don't consider him a wife beater," said Johnston, a retired social worker. "He just made a big mistake."

Johnston believes that Rice, who is attending counseling as part of the pretrial diversion program, is trying to make things right. She said fans should take their cues from Rice's wife.

"She has faith in the relationship and she has faith in him," Johnston said.

But fans such as John Lane of Towson say they are finished with Rice.

His Rice jersey, purchased a few years ago, was his first pricey fan gear. Still, he didn't hesitate to toss it in the trash when the allegations surfaced.

"I can't live with this sort of cognitive dissonance, where you can separate the individual, the so-called private actions, from the bigger picture," said Lane, a father of two.

Other fans, including Cindy Pierce, say they will still don their No. 27 jerseys.

Known as "Purple Dame," she is the first female Ravens fan inducted into the Professional Football Ultimate Fan Association.

Pierce likens her continued support of Rice to what she feels for a relative who has had trouble with the law. "He's still my family," said Pierce, 48, of Severn, a member of the Lavender Ladies fan club sponsored by the Ravens.

But even she was taken aback when her 8-year-old granddaughter seemed to shrug off the Rice incident, saying, "But he hits people on the field."

"I said, 'Yeah, but that's different,'" she said.

The furor over Rice demonstrates how the NFL "needs to have a clear anti-domestic violence policy" that sets out the penalty for players who violate it, said Margaret E. Johnson, an associate professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and co-director of its Center on Applied Feminism.

Johnson said she didn't believe Rice got off more easily than other noncelebrity defendants do on domestic violence charges. Deals are fairly common, she said, and often, as in Rice's case, the victim doesn't want charges filed.

"We don't want to override her wishes," Johnson said. "He did take responsibility. It's a horrible, horrible thing to do, but this couple wants to work on this relationship. If so, they can be role models."

The Ravens have struggled to handle the fallout over the altercation, one of several offseason incidents in which players have gotten in trouble with the law. Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne wrote a sympathetic blog post last week titled, "I like Ray Rice," about seeing Rice morosely working out in the dark in the team's practice facilities because he didn't know if others wanted to see him there.

"We know what it is to be a parent," wrote Byrne. "We know what it is to support a child after a mistake."