The Ravens issued a statement Wednesday defending their role in Ray Rice’s May 23 news conference and maintaining they did not suggest Rice’s wife, Janay, apologize for her involvement in the couples’ domestic violence incident.
Their response, spurred by multiple media reports and inquiries, came three days after Janay Rice said in an interview on the NBC “Today” show that the Ravens “suggested” she apologize for the altercation she had with her then-fiancee in an elevator of an Atlantic City, N.J., casino in February.
Ray Rice, who was charged with felony aggravated assault, was released by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL when a video of him punching and knocking out Janay was posted on TMZ on Sept. 8. Rice’s suspension was lifted last week, but he hasn’t been signed by another team.
“There have been some discussions in the media about the Ravens providing a “script” or 'suggested script' to Janay and Ray Rice prior to a May 23 press session,” Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne said in the statement. “After conversations with Ray about what he wanted to say, we did provide talking points to Ray for this event. After Ray informed the Ravens that Janay wanted also to speak at the event, I asked Ray on two different days if Ray wanted me to speak with Janay in advance of the press session.
“Both times, Ray declined and said: 'She's good. She knows what she wants to say.' At no time prior to the May 23 session did we provide talking points, a script or suggested script to Janay or speak with her about the press event. We did not recommend or suggest to Ray or Janay that she apologize in any way. We understand that the NFLPA also provided Ray talking points and that he repeatedly looked at these on his phone during the May 23 press event.”
Byrne provided a list of talking points that he discussed with the running back prior to his press conference at the Under Armour Performance Center. Those included: “I take full responsibility for what happened that night. I apologize (list all you want to address),” “We will not let this one night define who we are,” and “I was wrong. I made a mistake.”
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Byrne said the Ravens decided to issue a statement after reading and hearing multiple media reports that treated as fact the accusation that they suggested Janay apologize.
“We’ve discussed it internally over the last couple of days and decided that if we don’t respond, people may believe what is being inaccurately reported,” Byrne said. “We’re trying to put out the facts as we know them.”
George Atallah, assistant executive director of external affairs for the NFL Players Association, acknowledged the NFLPA was in contact with Rice before the news conference.
“We absolutely sent him notes and we tried to help guide him. That’s what we do,” Atallah said. “That’s what a union does to support the players.”
Rice’s representatives did not comment when asked about the Ravens’ statement.
Rice, 27, was widely criticized following his first public comments after his February arrest. He did not take questions, citing the ongoing legal matter, awkwardly scrolled down his cell phone searching for talking points and didn’t publicly apologize to Janay.
In the “Today” show interview, Janay explained the impetus behind the news conference.
“This press conference was something Ray and I put together,” she said. “I was ready to do anything that was going to help the situation, both help the way we looked in the media, help his image, help obviously his career.”
The Ravens were also roundly criticized for their role in the news conference and for the team’s official Twitter account writing that “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.” That tweet was quickly deleted.
Asked specifically about whether the Ravens advised her to apologize, Janay said: “They suggested it, yes,” before adding that the team didn’t give her the exact wording to use. “No, not specifically. They basically gave us a general script.”
In September, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti lamented the news conference in an interview with The Sun.
“In hindsight, I would have never let Janay [sit] up there,” Bisciotti said. “What she then said was that she takes some responsibility, which everything we know, a lot of battered women take responsibility for their roles in this thing. I regret that we ever let him do that in our facility. In hindsight, we would have said that this is a bad idea. His lawyer said that it had to be done. I think even the league had encouraged Ray to make some public statement. That was a bad day, a bad decision by all.”
Rice, in an interview that aired Tuesday on the “Today” show, acknowledged the news conference fell flat.
“The reason why that press conference was the way it was is because we were still under legal situations,” Rice said. “So, there wasn't much that could be said. I'll be honest. We were nervous. I was nervous. It was the first time that we were available to speak and I made a horrendous mistake not apologizing to my wife. When we were going in we were given what to speak about. It wasn't truly coming from us, if you can understand.”
Until Wednesday, the Ravens had avoided commenting on recent developments with Rice, including his reinstatement last week, although the situation remains ongoing.
There is a pending grievance against them, filed on behalf of Rice, citing wrongful termination of his $35 million contract. Rice is seeking $3.529 million in lost salary. Former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III also is conducting an investigation into the NFL’s and Ravens’ pursuit and handling of evidence in the Rice case.
Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson contributed to this article.