Like so many other citizens of Baltimore (and football followers across the country), I am nearly speechless about the incident involving Ray Rice and his fiancee, Janay Palmer.
As of this evening, this much is known. Two complaint summons were filed with the Atlantic City Municipal Court on Feb. 15, 2014. In the first summons, it is written that Palmer “did…commit assault by attempting to cause bodily injury to Raymell Rice, specifically by striking him with her hand, while at the Revel Casino.”
In the second summons, it is written that Rice “did…commit assault by attempting to cause bodily injury to J. Palmer, specifically by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious, at the Revel Casino.”
Before the two summons were released, TMZ.com released a video purportedly showing Rice dragging Palmer’s unconscious body out of an elevator. Rice’s attorney, Michael Diamonstein, has confirmed the video is authentic, but also argues that it shows the end of the incident and should not be used as the sole basis for judgment or even understanding of what occurred.
Regardless of what happened before he (allegedly) dragged Ms. Palmer’s limp body from the elevator (and then walked away), there is no side-stepping the enormity of this incident for Rice, Palmer, and others.
In fact, this is just plain ugly on too many fronts, which is why the story is so big in Baltimore and beyond. It has polarized the nation on various platforms:
Football: How should the Ravens handle this? The NFL? Should his success as a football player be kept separate from his personal matters? Will Rice play again for the Ravens? For anyone in the NFL?
Bullying: How can an individual so outspoken on bullying be involved in an alleged assault with a woman? Does this negate his advocacy? Undo the many projects he has supported and endorsed? Diminish the impact he has had locally in Howard County, Baltimore City, and elsewhere?
Domestic Violence: How will a public figure be viewed and, ultimately, judged in a matter of domestic violence? Will his clean record and social advocacy act as “contributing factors” that might lead to him receiving a sentence on the lower end of the spectrum? There is already discussion that the charges don’t fit the crime; will they be revised to more accurately reflect what happened, thus focusing on the issue of domestic violence as opposed to a football player, or a once-antibullying advocate?
He vs. She: Mutual assault charges were written against Rice and Palmer, leading many to ask, who was at fault? Is there even a victim? I have seen many online fights already, claiming she deserved it and he had every right to fight back. Others argue that under no circumstances do you ever hit a woman.
Which platform — if any — will rise to the top of list? Is any one of these more important than the other?
There is a fifth platform that has yet to be discussed.
Local Idolatry: We have raised Ray Rice to be a hero for our children, and few local athletes have done more to stop bullying and stand up for the victims. He empowered so many with confidence, trust, and courage. What will our children think? What do any of us think when we build up such public figures and they embrace the opportunity to lead – at one time by example?
This is why we all need to care about what is happening to Ray Rice and Janay Palmer. This is not just about football, bullying, domestic violence, gender roles, or local idolatry. It’s about all of these things, but each is so intertwined with the other, like thickets of wild thorns impossible — and dangerous — to separate.
Maybe this is why, in the end, none of these platform fighters will be satisfied with any outcome. Nobody wins in this case.
We can only hope that our own sensibility rises from the thickets, that we take care of ourselves, and of each other, and know that we can never raise another individual to a level above us, or anyone else.
We need to continue our fight to end bullying, to end domestic violence, to end idolatry. We don’t need to waste our energy mulling over the what-ifs and how-comes of limelight individuals who have struggled themselves. While we may offer our thoughts and prayers that they get the help they need to resolve their differences and overcome their issues, we cannot let this single incident detract us from the hard work that needs to continue with these and other important causes, and with the masses who are not football heroes or community leaders who struggle with the bullying and the violence every day.