Baller Mind Frame

Ray Rice and the Inequity of Video Evidence

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth? Let’s see, 25 frames a second multiplied by the length of the video and you’d have your answer. So the 45-minute video of Ray Rice assaulting his then fiancée would be about 67,500,000 words worth. It was reported on January 16th that Ray Rice and the Baltimore Ravens had reached an agreement on Rice’s dismissal from the team. There has been no publicly released information regarding the amount of the settlement, and there likely never will be. An arbitrator has lifted the indefinite suspension imposed by league commissioner Roger Goodell, and Rice is free to seek employment. To date, Rice’s agent states that there has been no interest in his client. Unfortunately, there is no interest because of the video and nothing else.

A while ago I suggested that the Dallas Cowboys needed to sign various “problem” players if they had any hope of keeping the level of talent on the field near where it was this season, or even improving it they had to pick up problem players on the cheap. Rice was among the names I mentioned as a player with production left to give to the game while being more than affordable as a result of his legal circumstances. I’m certain Rice is the last player most teams would want to acquire as doing so brings media scrutiny that resembles Keeping up with the Kardashians.

But what makes Ray so much worse than all the other players that had violent offenses during the offseason? Why are there players and coaches stating publicly that “any team would be happy to have Adrian Peterson”, who is fresh off of child abuse proceedings that he fully admitted to? The short answer is the video. There are detailed accounts of countless NFL players over the years committing virtually every crime you can imagine. Yet these players usually find another team willing to take them on as soon as the legal issues will allow them to play. The most famous case prior to the situation with Ray Rice is Michael Vick.

Vick was convicted for his part in a dog-fighting ring. Immediately following his release from prison, he was signed as a backup with the Philadelphia Eagles for very little, and allowed to continue his playing career. Many animal rights groups protested the player and team when he re-entered the league. Michael Vick got a trial, was convicted and sentenced to hard time. Ray Rice hasn’t even been charged.  While we haven’t seen the full impact of Rice’s situation, the fallout will be greater than anything that happened with Vick.

The only explanation is the video. Reading the horrific details of a criminal event in a detailed report is bad. It’s an entirely different thing to see the act. The NFL decided to hand down a light, two game suspension after evaluating the facts including the first video of Rice dragging his fiancé’s unconscious body from the elevator. The second video of Ray actually punching his bride-to-be prompted an indefinite ban from the sport and dismissal from the Ravens.

The likely sequence of events had the second video not surfaced would have gone as follows.

  • Outrage for the first week or two that Rice was back that would have ultimately ebbed.
  • Ray would have served his two game suspensions, played for the playoff-bound Ravens and helped them in their playoff push.
  • Ray would have received much more than the reported 3.5 million he was seeking in wrongful termination from the Ravens.

I find it disturbing that a video can change the perception of any act of violence, but apparently it can. Perhaps if the NFL spent half as much on video surveillance of their players as they did on game replay, we’d have a very different opinion of the league as a whole.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Rich Davis

    January 23, 2015 at 6:26 am

    Thank you for having the courage to make what should be an obvious case. Which is worse, punching your girlfriend in the mouth, or punching your girlfriend in the mouth in front of a security camera?

    Why Rice should be treated any differently than any other sports figure known to have socked his girlfriend on the jaw is beyond me. I’m not advocating for or against any course of discipline or proceeding ramifications, but I would advocate for some consistency.

    I’d also like to see sports figures rated a little more on their abilities on the field, and a little less on their behavior off it. Nobody wants a full on Dallas Cowaboys crack pipe meltdown or a Portland Jailblazers scenario. But I don’t want a bunch of Nobel Laureates on my team either. Every team could stand to have a tough guy or two.

    Not that smacking your fiance around makes you a tough guy, but if you happen to be a tough guy, there’s a chance you could also be something of a jerk.

    I think there’s way too much scrutiny these days. How would the leagues react these days to Michael Jordan’s gambling problem or Charles Barkley throwing midgets through plate glass windows?

    At some point you just end up with a bunch of goodie goodies on the court or field. And goodie goodies can have a tendency to be gutless competitors.

    Not that there aren’t stand-up guys who are ruthless competitors, but I hate to see ruthless competitors working at 7-11 just because they’re not stand-up guys.

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