A worthy rebuttal from the one person qualified to make it — or an attempt to shift blame? The woman at the center of the Ray Rice controversy spoke out this morning on Instagram to chastise the media for focusing on the release of the February 15th attack, calling it a “horrific … attempt to get ratings.” She pledges to “show the world what real love is,” and laments the cost of this media firestorm to her family:
The now-Mrs. Rice has an argument to make for the potential for redemption, but not so much with the media coverage. First, this involved a serious crime (third-degree aggravated assault in the indictment), committed in a public place. It wasn’t a case of marijuana use at a private residence, which would still be a crime in most jurisdictions, or an extramarital affair which would truly be a private issue. The court system conducts its business in public for good reasons relating to transparency and equal treatment under the law.
Rice didn’t make the situation any better with the way he and his team attempted to use the media to spin the situation either. Had that video emerged right away during the off-season, the NFL could have taken a longer time to deal with the situation and perhaps de-escalated it from the level we see now. Instead, it emerged right in the middle of other, longer suspensions for off-field behavior that pales in comparison to what Rice did to his wife. One player got a year-long suspension for marijuana use, eight times the punishment Rice got — which came in part because he and his attorneys made a concerted effort to play down the nature of the attack and suggest that it was a mutually-violent episode. The outrage in the media — and not just the media — stems in large part from the spin being exposed, and the NFL’s incompetent handling of the issue.
Besides, the Rices have more problems with their NFL community than with the media. ABC News’ report last night made that pretty clear:
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These players “worked their ass[es] off” too, and they are none too happy with Rice for his deception in this matter. He put them all on the spot, and several of them ripped Rice publicly for both his actions and the spin.
Christine Brennan is correct that the indefinite suspension and firing were “PR moves.” But the NFL and its players court the media assiduously; they make tons of money from television rights, and relentlessly market the league, the teams, and individual stars to gain more cash on all levels. With that high profile comes high interest in off-field behavior and the enforcement mechanisms of the league. Rice wouldn’t have made his money without it, so railing at “the media” for covering this public incident and the collapse of the spin around it is a rather empty exercise.
Eventually, Rice will play football again. The NFL will also need to decide whether they should act as a parallel to the court system for behavior unrelated to the game regardless of who the commissioner will be, which set them up for this humiliating episode. But let no one doubt that the NFL will continue to court the media, and so will Rice and whatever team signs him for his attempt at a redemptive comeback.