Ray Rice and the behavior of pro-athletes

Few will be oblivious to what happened involving Baltimore Ravens Running Back Ray Rice this week.

In case you are: http://www.tmz.com/2014/02/19/ray-rice-unconscious-fiancee-atlantic-city-video-arrest/

He was allegedly involved in something called a “mutual assault” with his fiancee.  This involved her being mutually knocked out and him mutually dragging her out of an elevator in Atlantic City like you might a dead body or a Christmas tree in January.  There no sound on the video, recorded by a phone from CCTV footage from inside the casino where the incident took place, but Rice’s indifference speaks volumes.  There’s no panicking whatsoever, as any reasonable person might in the event that they had been involved in a passionate argument with their fiancee (i.e. the person you plan to marry) and accidentally caused them a serious physical injury.

Reports have since emerged that there is footage of Rice upper-cutting his fiancee, knocking her out.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh commented that he expected Rice to remain with the team.  One would hope that will only be the case until this new footage emerges.

Just over a year ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers waived running back Chris Rainey after he was arrested on battery charges.  Rainey allegedly assaulted his girlfriend.  Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert commented at the time: “Chris Rainey’s actions this morning were extremely disappointing…under the circumstances and due to his conduct, Chris will no longer be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

An NFL.com article reported the incident as:

Both Rainey and the female victim then fell to the ground. The victim was able to run away, but Rainey chased after her because his cellphone was in a bag the victim was carrying. Rainey grabbed the bag again and they both fell to the ground again. Neither party suffered visible injuries from the encounter. Multiple witnesses confirmed the incident.

The charges against Rainey were dropped and he signed with the Indianapolis Colts in November.

As bad as it reads, the incident Rainey was involved in doesn’t sound as bad as what Ray Rice allegedly did, does it?  I don’t want this to be a “holier-than-thou” post, but the fact that Ray Rice is still a Baltimore Raven at the time of writing speaks volumes as to the attitude of that franchise to the conduct of its players.  True, Rice was an elite running back a year ago and despite an indifferent 2013 season is still vastly superior to Chris Rainey, who was more or less the Steelers fourth choice back when he was cut.  The Ravens have also committed a serious amount of money to Rice – their best case scenario when cutting him is to only lose $5.5 million.

Some reports have attempted to excuse Rice by noting that he and his fiancee left the police station together.  Gee, I wonder why a woman was go back to a man who violently assaulted her and just happens to be one of the most famous and highest earning people in the entire country?

Some Ravens fans will undoubtedly cite allegations made against Ben Roethlisberger to counter any Steelers judgement of their organization’s actions in the Rice case.  Okay, show me the charges?  Show me the video?  Show me the evidence?  The evidence, as we have available to us against Rice, is damning.

The key issue here is that the Rice incident is part of a much deeper problem within the NFL.  Their players just can’t behave themselves.  There is a database of NFL arrests.

Since the turn of the year, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson was arrested for DWI and drug possession.  Tampa running back Michael Hill was involved in a bar fight.  Cleveland receiver Davonne Bess was arrested for assaulting a law enforcement officer at Fort Lauderdale airport (although in his defense, Fort Lauderdale airport is a nightmare) and San Francisco lineman Daniel Kilgore was charged with public intoxication.  The database has almost 700 entries.

The NFL season may have ended, but the NFL has hardly been out of the news since.  The Wells report told us about locker room culture within the NFL and despite the protestations of former and current players, left little doubt that the sort of bullying that Jonathan Martin was subjected to was far from unique to Miami.

The NFL has the opportunity with the combine this weekend to refocus the attention of the world on the actual sport of football, but a huge, Ray Rice shaped cloud looms over the entire league.  If Rice is shown to have violently struck his fiancee, harsh action must be taken, and not just in the name of saving the Ravens a few dollars.