BOSTON (CBS) — On Thursday, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was issued a two-game suspension from the NFL for allegedly punching his then-fiancee in an elevator, rendering her unconscious. Disturbing video of Rice dragging the lifeless body of Janay Rice — then Janay Palmer — out of the elevator is readily available online, and it captures the seriousness of the charges.
Criminally, Rice is mostly being let off the hook. He agreed to participate in a pretrial intervention program for at least one year, and if he completes it, the charges will be dropped.
Professionally, the two-game suspension (and the loss of a game check for one more game) amounts to a slap on the wrist. And on Friday, the Baltimore Ravens made it known that as an organization, the franchise absolves Ray Rice of all of his wrongdoing.
Kevin Byrne, the team’s senior vice president of public and community relations, wrote a post for the Ravens’ official website titled “Byrne Identity: I Like Ray Rice.”
In the story, Byrne explains all the positive things about Rice.
“If you had asked me on Feb. 1 to name five Ravens players I would never expect to receive a call at 3:00 in the morning about doing something illegal, Ray Rice would be on the list – EASILY,” Byrne wrote, using all capital letters and a font size several sizes larger to emphasize the word “easily.”
“I would have said: ‘Ray’s a good guy. He’s smart. He might be the most popular person in our building. Need help with a community event or a player to lift a person in need, especially a child? Ray is one of the guys who says, ‘Yes, I’ll help,'” Byrne wrote, before adding:
“I liked Ray Rice a lot then. I like Ray Rice a lot today.”
Byrne explained that he felt compelled to write about Rice in the wake of all the criticism being placed on the running back, so he went to owner Steve Bisciotti to ask if it would be appropriate. Bisciotti told Byrne that such a story was not necessary.
“No one outside, I’ve learned, can understand how we look at these guys as our sons and close friends as opposed to just employees,” Bisciotti said, also in giant font used by Byrne.
Bisciotti continued: “Don’t we all have days or moments or periods in our life we regret? Ray showed great character for the six years I’ve known him. He has shown remorse after a bad incident. It was out of character. I don’t think now is the time to abandon him. You say we are a Ravens’ family. I’ve come to believe that.”
Later, Bisciotti asked Byrne, “Is it a flaw for us that we support our players in tough times? If it is, I’m OK with that.”
Mind you, all of this came one day after head coach John Harbaugh said, “I stand behind Ray. He’s a heck of a guy. He’s done everything right since [the incident]. He makes a mistake, all right? He’s going to have to pay a consequence. I think that’s good for kids to understand it works that way. That’s how it works, that’s how it should be.”
In his post, Byrne went on to say that he wrote it so that he could “lift the veil” on what goes on behind the scenes, in order to “try to share with fans some of what takes place that media doesn’t see or care to cover.” He says this as if we are the ones who have it wrong, as if those of us who see a man dragging his knocked out wife from an elevator and want him to suffer consequences are the ones who are seeing things with a bias. He says this as if because Ray Rice has been nice in the past, it somehow excuses him for what he allegedly did — an act so vile and reprehensible that it simply cannot be chalked up to being just a “mistake.”
Many of us make mistakes. Very few of us hit women. Those who do that deserve to go to prison. This is not all that complicated.
It is true that Rice is a first-time offender, but there are certain crimes where once is too many. Allegedly hitting a woman so hard that you have to grab her body part-by-body part in order to remove her from an elevator car certainly falls in that category.
Nevertheless, Kevin Byrne wants us to know that we are wrong, that we don’t know Ray Rice and we “don’t care” to see “the truth.” After the NFL dropped the ball with its ridiculously ludicrous “punishment” on Thursday, the Ravens kept that NFL Enabling Train rolling along with their self-serving public praise of Rice on Friday.
How will the NFL get it wrong next? Based on the events of the past two days, it probably won’t take very long to find out.