A newly circulated video showing Ray Rice knocking out his then fiancee drew heightened and widespread outrage Monday, prompting the Ravens to fire the player whose dazzling runs on the field and anti-bullying efforts off of it had endeared him to Ravens Nation.
A newly circulated video showing Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee drew heightened and widespread outrage Monday, prompting the Ravens to fire the player whose dazzling runs on the field and anti-bullying efforts off it had endeared him to Ravens Nation.
Rice, 27, had appeared poised to weather the storm that ensued after he was charged with assault for the incident in an Atlantic City, N.J., casino. The Ravens stood behind him, the National Football League punished him with a relatively light two-game suspension, and many fans greeted him warmly at an open practice at M&T Bank Stadium and continued to sport his No. 27 jersey.
But the video that showed Rice punching now-wife Janay Palmer — in contrast to the previously released clip that showed only the aftermath, with him dragging her out of an elevator — proved shocking in a way that written accounts had not.
The reaction was swift and harsh.
By 2:18 p.m., about 10 hours after the website TMZ released the new footage, the Ravens issued a terse statement announcing that Rice's contract had been terminated, a move that will cost the team millions of dollars. Soon thereafter, the NFL suspended the player indefinitely. The league had revised its domestic violence policy last month after outcry over Rice's original penalty.
The NFL and Nike online stores pulled Rice's jerseys off their sites, as did some brick-and-mortar stores. The three Dick's Sporting Goods stores in the Baltimore area, for example, emptied their racks of Rice gear after receiving an email from corporate headquarters. Smyth Jewelers offered store credit for returned Ray Rice merchandise ranging from $60 to $500, and pledged to make a donation to a domestic violence group matching those amounts.
All day, condemnation of Ravens and NFL executives scorched the airwaves and social media. Reaction came from all corners, including fans, lawmakers and even the White House.
"I'd rather lose games without Ray Rice than win games with him," tweeted @lindseyyok, who co-hosts a podcast, Purple Reign.
Many fans and commentators questioned when the Ravens and the NFL first saw the video taken inside the elevator and whether they were taking harsher action in light of new information or reacting to the uproar.
NFL officials said they saw the footage for the first time Monday, despite having asked police and prosecutors for all evidence in the case. Ravens coach John Harbaugh also said the team saw it for the first time Monday.
"It changed things, of course. It made things a little bit different," Harbaugh said in explaining his reaction to the video.
Meanwhile, fans who previously had been willing to give Rice another chance now said they felt complicit.
"Seeing the video today was pretty horrific," said state Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat. "It was swept under the rug with the two-game suspension, and seeing [the violence] so clear and present made me feel guilty about the whole situation and withholding judgment in the past."
Ferguson, who has a 7-week-old daughter, decided to donate the $75 he had paid for his Ray Rice jersey several years ago to the House of Ruth, which advocates for and shelters victims of domestic violence.
His tweet about the donation resonated with Morgan Meneses-Sheets, a Catonsville mother of two daughters who similarly donated to the nonprofit. Meneses-Sheets said she and her wife bought Ravens and Orioles onesies for their daughters, followed by more team gear as they grew bigger.
"It's a hard day to be a Ravens fan," she said. "We were proud of them when they brought home the Super Bowl trophy, and as proud as I was that day, I am so ashamed today to call myself a Ravens fan."
The Ravens announced a new partnership with the House of Ruth on the same day the NFL unveiled its revised domestic violence policy last month. In a statement Monday, the nonprofit thanked the Ravens and NFL for "such a strong stand against intimate partner violence."
For some, the NFL didn't repair its image with Monday's indefinite suspension of the Ravens player. The original video clip showed Rice pulling the unconscious woman out of the elevator, so they asked why further video evidence was needed.
"Couldn't they figure that out?" said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a sports management professor at George Washington University.
After the first video's release, a police report confirmed that Rice had knocked his fiancee unconscious. But the latest video evidence forced the Ravens and the NFL to take a stronger stance, said Melissa Jacobs, founder of The Football Girl blog.
Ricci plans to "neatly fold" her Rice jersey and add it to a box with those of former Ravens players. "He's still a part of Baltimore Ravens history," she said.
Rice so dominated the news Monday that politicians put out statements — Gov. Martin O'Malley called the images "horrible, shocking, and reprehensible" — and White House press secretary Josh Earnest fielded a question about the player. Earnest declined to comment on decisions made by "an individual football team" and later released a statement after speaking with President Barack Obama.
"The President is the father of two daughters. And like any American, he believes that domestic violence is contemptible and unacceptable in a civilized society. Hitting a woman is not something a real man does," Earnest said in the statement. "Stopping domestic violence is something that's bigger than football — and all of us have a responsibility to put a stop to it."
Members of Congress also issued statements backing the Ravens' decision to terminate Rice's contract and denouncing domestic violence. U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said the Ravens "have taken action showing domestic violence will not be tolerated among its players."
"I support their decision," she said.
Three of her colleagues from other states had previously written the NFL and the Ravens that they were "appalled" and "dismayed" by the short suspension Rice originally received. The senators then voiced support when league commissioner Roger Goodell said Aug. 28 he erred in leveling that penalty and henceforth imposed a mandatory six-game suspension for first-time domestic violence offenders.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat who was among that vocal group, said in a statement Monday that the "NFL admitted that they did not get it right and this [video] is further, very disturbing proof that they didn't."
"Shouldn't have taken the NFL and the Ravens this long to do the right thing," tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who wrote to the league and team with Baldwin.
Other members of the Maryland delegation also weighed in Monday.
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said that with or without "horrifying" video footage, domestic violence "should always be taken seriously, whether by local law enforcement or the NFL."
"Professional athletes are role models for children, and it's important to send a message that this type of behavior is unacceptable," he said.
Rice pleaded not guilty in May to one count of third-degree aggravated assault and was accepted into a program for first-time offenders that required him to stay out of trouble and receive counseling with his wife.
"The case has been adjudicated in court, the court is supervising Mr. Rice in the Pre-Trial Intervention, so there is no revisiting," Jay McKeen, spokesman for the Atlantic County, N.J., prosecutor's office, said in an email.
Police had said officers viewed the surveillance video before deciding to charge both Rice and Palmer for their respective roles in the incident. Palmer's charges were later dropped, and Rice's were upgraded.
Prosecutors in Atlantic County declined to answer questions about how the case was handled or what evidence may or may not have been shared with the NFL or the Ravens.
Rice's attorneys were provided the video through the discovery process that allows defendants to view evidence against them, but prosecutors have declined public information requests from the media for the tape, citing New Jersey law.
Prosecutor Diane Ruberton told reporters at the time that Rice's plea offer was consistent with those in similar cases.
Rice's lawyer, Michael Diamondstein, declined to comment Monday.
A young woman who answered Rice's front door in a quiet, shady cul-de-sac off Dover Road in Reisterstown said, "We're not talking right now." She did not identify herself before shutting the door.
The faded brick Colonial-style two-story home is mostly hidden from the road by trees. A child's swing set peeks over the top of the backyard fence. Rice and his wife have a daughter named Rayven.
Neighbors including Dr. Leon Wright called Rice a good neighbor.
"His character is outstanding. He is a very nice young man," Wright said, but declined to comment about the recent news. Wright said the player was "a very loving father" to Rayven and also "very kind" to the doctor's two kids.
The uproar over the Rice video came a day after the Ravens lost their season opener to the Bengals, and just days before their nationally televised game Thursday against the Steelers.