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C. Fraser Smith: We unite in talking about Rice

Overheard apology of an outraged fan: “OK, one more thing and I’ll shut up. …”

Tough promise to keep on the subject of Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens, the NFL and the videotape.

Everybody has a thought or two. Once again, sports brings us together — not in a good way.

We’re all on the same page: It’s football, the national sport, the sport some of us are feeling guilty about watching. So much injury, so much crime.

But we’re into the scandal. Are we ever. It’s real-life soap opera: comic and tragic.

And it’s participatory.

We commandeer the talk shows. What did the Ravens and the NFL know and when did they know it? There are reports that both the team and league had or could have had the telltale videotape. Did they? If so, did they watch it? Of course, they did, we declare. We don’t know the answers, but so much the better. Ignorance can be license.

We have skin in the game — or clothing, at any rate. We’re invited to trade in our jerseys with the team. We can also hand them over to a barkeep in exchange for whatever.

What are we learning? That footfall is mega business? Probably we knew that. More proof that drinking can be a problem? Ditto.

Are we watching the fall of a typical wife beater? The assumption is built into much of the conversation.

The syndrome is there. But I’m not aware of any report that Rice threw punches at women before or after the impromptu bout in Atlantic City. In fact, before the fight, he seemed to be at the opposite end of the scale. A bank thought he was the perfect salesman.

Clearly, he slugged his then-fiancee. We knew that. He said he did. Should he go to jail now because we see the deed up close and personal? Or do we deal with him the way the courts deal with first offenders: probation, counseling, etc. He had plenty of reason to mend his ways — to fend off impulses. He may have been succeeding in that effort. Do we know? We do know a lot of the leverage is gone.

No wonder the aforementioned fan can’t stop. The storylines sustain:

We have the “punishment” line: the craven NFL meting out the now-infamous two-game suspension. Laughable as a condemnation of violence against women — as if two games took care of that. The penalty had “fix is in” stamped all over it. We saw it and we were ready to live with it – until …

There was huge blowback. The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, offered his mea culpa. Oh boy! Maybe his job was in jeopardy.

Then the video trail got clearer. Here we have proof that we know far too much about football. I am speaking of the assertion by aficionados that NFL gumshoes can find things the CIA can’t. Then you learn these guys were CIA.

With the tape in hand, the case reopened at light speed. The Ravens let Rice go.

Then came the NFL do-over: two weeks jumped to indefinite suspension — a.k.a. the metaphorical death penalty.

Did the team and league finally “get it right”? Some say yes. Rice is gone, never to return.

Some say no. Rice is gone because he tarnished the NFL “brand” — not because he KO’d his fiancee, now his wife. Had the issue been dealt with correctly, maybe Rice would still be a Raven with a better chance of saving his career and his marriage.

To his credit, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said the team had not been satisfactorily thorough in its search for the video. Earlier, Goodell announced that former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III would conduct an investigation of Tapegate.

I don‘t need to say this, but stay tuned.

C. Fraser Smith is senior news analyst at WYPR-FM. His column appears Fridays in the Daily Record. His email address is fsmith@wypr.org. 


2 comments

  1. dailyrecord@list.law.umaryland.edu

    The over-the-top demagoguery on this topic by self-appointed and self-aggrandizing moral Valkyries is embarrassing. Even Jeffrey Toobin, who has his own checkered history with women, weighed in on the issue. No one is in favor of spousal abuse, or bullying of any kind, but this is not a death penalty case, and what Rice did pales in significance compared with what’s happening in Gaza, Ukraine, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and other such places; though you couldn’t tell that reading American newspapers and blogs. One of the increasingly obvious downsides of the internet is that every ignorant blowhard now is a pundit. Somewhere, the ghosts of Lippmann and Mencken must be laughing.

  2. jic@harfordcountymd.gov

    Why does the NFL have to have a policy to punish players for domestic violence? Does Barrack Obama have a policy for federal employees who abuse women? Does Martin O’Malley have a policy for state employees who abuse their wives? Does Hollywood blacklist movie stars who abuse their wives? As a prosecutor for 30+ years, I have always understood that the punishment should fit the crime. But here we punish not only Ray Rice with societal banishment but his wife as well. Wives already have a disincentive not to report abuse because the abuser may lose his security clearance or his job. Now we want every employer to fire every person convicted of spouse abuse less they be seen as condoning violence against women. I have worked my entire career battling spouse abuse, but this hysteria is misdirected.