Editor’s note: Shortly after this story was published, the Baltimore Ravens terminated Ray Rice’s contract. Read the story here.
Earlier this year, just after Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiancee, Janay Palmer, were arrested and charged with domestic assault over Valentine’s Day weekend, his lawyer described the incident as “a very minor physical altercation.”
TMZ quickly debunked that claim, releasing exclusive footage of Rice dragging his unconscious girlfriend out of a casino elevator. The rumor was that Rice had delivered the knockout blow, and somewhere there was footage from inside the elevator.
That casino, Revel in Atlantic City, closed its doors less than a week ago. I guess some staffer decided that since he or she was out of a job, it was time for a payday. This morning, TMZ released disturbing video footage of Rice attacking his then-fiancee, now-wife, in the elevator.
It’s worse than most imagined. Rice appears to slap her, and when she attempts to defend herself, he punches her in the face. As she falls, she hits her head on the elevator railing and lies motionless on the floor. As disturbing as the slap and punch, Rice callously ignores her limp body, seemingly unbothered until the elevator door opens. He drags Palmer’s body partially off the elevator and kicks her to wake her up. Eventually other people approach to find out what’s going on, and Palmer begins to regain consciousness.
Rice is a sick, disturbed man who is in need of intense therapy to manage his anger. I said that on various social media platforms this morning. In some circles (often the ones still wondering what Palmer said or did that infuriated Rice, as if it matters), my thoughts were met with responses like, “Well, we don’t know the full story”—really? You need more than this video?—and “Don’t judge.”
If I may say a word about this “don’t judge” mentality that emerges every time something crazy happens: “Don’t judge” is the pseudo-intellectual version of what “stop snitching” is in the streets. It’s a poor excuse not to think critically. It’s passive-aggressive. It’s avoiding being a contributing member of society. It’s why evil triumphs.
Folks are afraid to say that they have standards anymore and to draw a line on BS. And they will be the same people wondering why crazy mess keeps coming into their lives. You open the doors and let everyone in, and anything flies because you are too scared, or too simple, to use your judgment.
I was appalled by the lack of judgment in the NFL’s handling of this incident. A two-game suspension is a weak punishment. Now, after seeing this video—which the NFL says it did not see before giving Rice a slap on the wrist—I hope that in light of the new footage, the league will give Rice a harsher punishment—perhaps the six-game suspension as stated in its latest personal-conduct policy.
I’m also genuinely scared for Janay Rice, who married her attacker one month after he knocked her out cold, dragged her body and kicked her. In February, when this story originally broke, I wrote an article wondering where the concern for her was. The big chatter—then and now—was speculation about the impact this situation would have on Ray Rice’s career or on the Ravens or the NFL. But the victim was and is getting lost, again, except in speculation about whether it was Ray Rice’s money that made her marry him. That’s nosy, not concern.
So I wonder, again, to Janay Rice: “You OK, sis?” Ray Rice is now her husband, but we all know that people don’t change with “I do.” A wedding ceremony isn’t a baptism, and abusers don’t miraculously change into decent men at the altar. A woman from my Ask.fm, who has been in Janay’s position, just wrote in to share her story:
I cried when I saw the Ray Rice video because my ex-husband used to knock me the [f—k] out and I played it off … thinking he was misunderstood and would change before we got married. He also continued to beat on me after the wedding … until my jaw has been permanently shifted. Please, ladies, please. They don’t change … but you will. Your body, your bones, your heart and your soul. Even when he was kicking me and beating me, I fighted [sic] to see the humanity in him, til I realized he didn’t have one to keep hurting me—the woman he claimed he’d die for … but was on his way to killing me. Please … run!
Janay could be in for a long, painful life, if Ray doesn’t kill her first—which doesn’t seem so far-fetched, given the violence shown, and his lack of concern about her well-being, in the video.
Pray for Janay Rice. Please.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and the upcoming Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. Follow her on Twitter.