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Ravens must rebuild reputation in wake of Rice's departure

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Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Ravens and Orioles beat reporter for WNST BaltimorePositive.com and is a PFWA member. His mind is consumed with useless sports knowledge, pro wrestler promos, and movie quotes, but he struggles to remember where he put his phone. Luke's favorite sports memories include being one of the thousands of kids who waited to get Cal Ripken's autograph after Orioles games in the summer of 1995, attending the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade with his father in the pouring rain, and watching the Terps advance to the Final Four at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @BaltimoreLuke or email him at Luke@wnst.net.

There was no other choice for the Ravens but to sever ties with running back Ray Rice on Monday afternoon.
The release of the second elevator video by TMZ depicted the worst-case scenario of what Rice had done to then-fiancée Janay Palmer and removed any lingering benefit of the doubt one could reasonably have in defending or understanding the 27-year-old’s actions on that February night in an Atlantic City casino. And it brought the Ravens’ embarrassing missteps to the forefront as the organization was forced to terminate the contract of the man they’d spent the better part of seven months defending and building up amidst intense criticism from the rest of the world.
Whether they were simply misled by Rice, the New Jersey legal system, and the NFL or callously turned a blind eye to what really happened is open for debate as this saga isn’t over — even if the three-time Pro Bowl running back’s career in Baltimore is. The truth is the Ravens will now face the challenge of rebuilding their own image and trust with the general public as their reputation for being one of the finest organizations in the NFL took a massive blow in their handling of the Rice incident.
From the emphatic insistence that his job status was not in jeopardy and strong praise for Rice’s character to the embarrassing initial press conference and the examples of profound support published on the team’s official website, owner Steve Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and head coach John Harbaugh must all take responsibility for what was an error in judgment and a lack of sensitivity to what was a startling case of domestic violence. It was unfair for the organization to leave Harbaugh alone to field questions Monday evening as the masses — including Ravens fans and the local community — deserved to hear from the team owner and high-ranking officials following the decision to terminate the employment of one of the Ravens’ biggest stars since 2008.
Harbaugh told the media that Monday was the first time anyone in the organization had viewed the second video published for the world to see that morning. When pressed if he felt misled by his former running back and asked what about the video had changed the team’s reaction so drastically, Harbaugh didn’t “want to get into all that,” which isn’t a good enough answer from an organization that was labeled tone-deaf by many for their unwavering support of Rice throughout the entire ordeal.
It’s human nature to want to think the best of someone you admire no matter what the circumstance, and the Ravens certainly cared — and still care — about Rice as a person. But the organization allowed the goodwill Rice had built over his first six years in Baltimore to cloud its preparedness for — and sensitivity to — the worst-case scenario that proved to be the truth with the released video of Rice viciously striking his future wife and knocking her unconscious in that casino elevator.
Throughout the process, the Ravens gravitated toward what they wanted to believe — and perhaps how Rice and the New Jersey legal system had portrayed the incident — with little regard for the possibility that this incident of domestic violence was as bad as some had reported and many had feared. Yes, the Ravens knew Rice had done wrong, but their actions and words over the last seven months didn’t demonstrate an appropriate grasp of just how violently he had potentially acted.
The Ravens showed more than enough support for Rice by simply not cutting him from the start and instead allowed the legal process to play out, even if many believed they shouldn’t have even wasted that much time. However, the organization went out of its way to continuously remind everyone about how great of a guy Rice was, which — unintentionally or not — portrayed him as more of a victim than a perpetrator and showed a lack of sensitivity and compassion toward victims of domestic violence.
The recent partnership formed with the House of Ruth to help combat domestic violence was a good start, but much more will need to be done to put the memory of the last seven months behind them.
As an emotional Chris Canty stated, Monday was a sad day for the Baltimore Ravens as they severed ties with one of their biggest stars. Make no mistake, it was a sickening act committed by Rice alone that led to his deserved termination, but the Ravens only hurt themselves in the way they handled the matter along the way.
And it will take much longer to fix that tarnished reputation than it did to clean out Rice’s locker on Monday.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Yeah…I agree with Rodney. I see this situation as akin to double jeopardy. I’m no legal scholar, and domestic abuse is heinous, but I do know that you can’t be tried twice for the same crime. Right or wrong, Rice was given a two game suspension by Goodell and the NFL. He was also given the “diversion program” verdict by the judicial system in New Jersey. Contrary to what the NFL has publicly stated, they must have known that Janay was struck by Ray, consequently she looked the way she appeared in the first video.
    My gut instinct is that Rice will sue the league through the NFLPA, and he might have some type of legal action against the Ravens.
    Lastly, I wonder if the Modell’s were still in charge of the Ravens whether they would have stuck by Ray after the second video surfaced. My guess is that they wouldn’t have “cut and run” like Bisciotti, Cass and Ozzie. At the very least they wouldn’t have permitted John Harbaugh to dangle in the wind, in attempting to answer media questions yesterday on why the Ravens ultimately severed their ties with Rice.

  2. Well said Luke. I was very disappointed that Ozzie and Bisciotti failed to address this issue yesterday and instead let Harbaugh twist in the wind trying to explain how they got to this point. I think at some point Bisciotti will need to sit down and explain fully why and how the Ravens dropped the ball on this one. Until he does, the Ravens reputation will remain soiled.

  3. I third Rodney’s comments. Based on the police report and seeing her dragged out of the elevator, anyone can connect the dots. He punched her out. So in what manner does punching a lady deserve a 6-game ban versus a ban for life? Is it how hard you punch someone that will determine the punishement by Goodell & the NFL?
    However, if Rice told a different story to the NFL then what is in the policy report, then Goodell and Co need to say that now to show this decision was justified. Otherwise, the NFL will be living with a 2-tiered punishment system. (1) If there is no video you get x-game suspension; or (2) We see a video, you are gone.
    How about if we saw the video of Donte Stallworths victim as they died in a car crash? Just on face value, this offense is worse than what Ray with or without a video. I assume if we saw the video we would have been clamoring for him to be banned from the NFL. This lack of consistency by Goodell, Ravens and the NFL is disturbing.

  4. This situation leaves me with more questions than answers- and significant disappointment with the Ravens senior management. I expect such waffling from the NFL, but not from our organization.
    1. Why has no one vehemently pointed to the fact that BOTH Ray and Janay were ‘under the influence’ and as such, this situation MUST be viewed in light of that fact. If someone is intoxicated, gets in their car and accidently kills someone, it is considered manslaughter, not murder, because the courts recognize that the driver was impaired. Is there any doubt that Ray and Janay’s actions were affected by alcohol? When not ‘under the influence,’ there has been no indication of such behaviors. This fact does not relieve responsibility, but it certainly should mitigate the impact and repercussions. How many members of the NFL- players, owners, coaches and the like…not to mention the general population have gotten ‘in serious trouble’ while ‘under the influence?’ Maybe alcohol misuse/abuse should become a relevant topic— but it won’t. Not good for all those high paying sponsors of the league like Coors or Budweiser…And it will not quell the mob’s thirst for a sacrifice…
    2. In reading information on the NFL website with regard to the video, it was stated that this material was available and reviewed by the New Jersey Courts system, and after same, arrived at a legal resolution. The NFL and Ravens ‘let the legal process play itself out’ and later arrives at their own disciplinary actions- fines and suspension. This video did not unveil something new or in any way indicate that Ray or Janay had perjured themselves. The situation had been tried in the courts and the NFL investigation– but God forbid that it does not get tried in ‘court of public opinion.’ And let’s face it– both the Ravens and the NFL responded in this manner so as to hopefully survive their own ‘trial’ by the same. Their decision was based on a desired public perception… and I wonder if Ray had a fantastic year last season, might things be different…When Ray and Janay needed the Ravens the most, they ‘threw them to the mob.’ I do not believe this would have happened under Art Modell. Who knows where Ray Lewis might be today had he received the same treatment by the organization during his own ‘situation.’
    3. And while we are on the matter of the video…that tape was the private property of the casino, and later held by the New Jersey courts. It was not released to the NFL nor the Ravens, per the article I referenced in item (2). Why is no one worried that Ray’s privacy rights have been violated in releasing this to the public? How would ANYONE feel if their ‘worst moment’ was captured on video and then released to the public– and losing their job! I can bet they would ‘lawyer up’ in a heartbeat and seek out that person and sue for damages! And what of the individual who (undoubtedly) sold it? ? Has no one considered this is theft? He or she had to ‘steal’ that tape or its contents in order to get it to TMZ. I say ‘steal’ because it was something to which they had no legal ownership/right to sell or release. Is the New Jersey legal system seeking that person out? Can’t be a long list of folks having access to it?
    I will still support our Ravens– the players, coaches and staff. They did nothing to warrant abandonment. None of this was their fault, and why should they suffer for it? Remember the last time the fans thought they would ‘teach the owner a lesson’ and not support the team? Can you say Indianapolis Colts?

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