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Men and women sport Ray Rice jerseys at Baltimore Ravens Thursday night home game

While most of America strongly feels that Ray Rice should not have punched his then then-fiancee — and now wife — inside an Atlantic City hotel elevator, many are split as to how the NFL, and Baltimore Ravens franchise, handled the entire situation.

For those out of the loop, or simply not interested in NFL football drama, here is the video that started the Ray Rice saga:

For some backstory The Boston Globe provides some context:

Atlantic City is a gambling town. We can now add the NFL to the long list of those who liked their odds in an Atlantic City casino and walked away losers.

The NFL bet that what happened between former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his then-fiancée/now wife Janay Palmer in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino would never see the light of day. That all we would see was the aftermath, Rice dragging his unconscious significant other out of the elevator of the Revel Casino after a physical altercation in February.

It gambled that the horrific video of Rice slugging Palmer, published by TMZ.com on Monday, would remain concealed. It gambled that the public outcry over the league’s far too lenient two-game suspension for Rice announced on July 24 would subside and the public would be satiated by commissioner Roger Goodell’s mea culpa and the league’s recently announced tougher standards for those who commit domestic violence.

Running back Ray Rice was released by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL on Monday, the same day the above video surfaced on TMZ, showing the NFL star knocking out his future wife in February.

The drama did not end in the elevator as Metro News reports:

[NFL Commissioner] Goodell may have thought he had ridden out the Ray Rice storm, despite the controversy and criticism that his initial disciplinary judgement had garnered. So lenient was it assumed the two-game suspension for Ray Rice for the assault of his then-fiancee, now wife in a casino elevator during the off-season that Goodell issued an unprecedented mea culpa, in the process announcing a new policy on domestic abuse.

Following Monday’s revelations, the Baltimore Ravens swiftly cut Rice (as did his sponsors, Nike) and the NFL announced that he was suspended indefinitely with immediate effect. His career, make no mistake, could likely be over.

The new video that emerged Monday, if you are unaware, actually showed the footage of what occurred inside the elevator, rather than the original footage released months ago which showed what happened outside. It makes for shocking viewing on a number of levels.

Its emergence though, serves to highlight the inadequacy of the original decision by Goodell in terms of discipline and the Ravens in their steadfast support of Rice. Putting aside the fact the additional footage now surfaced, what new detail did it provide aside from the visual confirmation of what was already surely known?

Goodell has stated that the league was not provided with the tape, accusing Rice in the process of effectively hoodwinking him during the investigation. Goodell’s admission is being questioned, ranging from second guessing his version to accusations that it is untrue with questions being raised as to why an entity with the all-encompassing reach and power as the NFL could not obtain the footage when TMZ, a broadcaster, could?

Late Wednesday evening, the AP even ran a story claiming that the NFL had in fact been sent a copy of the video in question several months ago.

NFL Commissioner Goodell was well aware of the entire content of the video, meaning he clearly lied about what he knew and covered things up, hoping for it all to go away. The NFL and the Baltimore Ravens, in a move clearly taken to save face, released Rice from his contract with Baltimore and suspended him indefinitely from the NFL, only once the video was leaked.

This is the same Baltimore Ravens team that was lead to a Super Bowl victory in 2013 by Ray Lewis, who was charged in a murder case in 2000, but now has a statue outside the stadium.  The takeaway…hitting a women trumps the death of two men.

So how do the Baltimore fans feel about the Rice incident? Let’s get back to the Thursday night game against the Steelers, as covered by AP, who was on hand interviewing fans proudly sporting Rice’s no. 27 jersey:

“There’s two sides to every story,” said a 23-year-old waitress from Baltimore. “I saw the video. That’s their personal business, and it shouldn’t have affected his career. I don’t agree with domestic violence, but she’s still with him, so obviously it wasn’t that big of a deal. Everyone should just drop it.”

All condemned Rice’s actions, but there was little consensus as to what his punishment should be. The NFL did the right thing by suspending him, some said, but the Ravens shouldn’t have terminated his contract as well. Or maybe the suspension should have remained at two games, where it stood before the punch video became public.

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Not everyone was critical of the NFL’s decision to suspend Rice…

“You support a wife-beater!” one female fan yelled at male fan wearing a No. 27 about 90 minutes before kickoff.

Outside of at least one entrance, a memo explained the “Ray Rice Jersey Exchange” policy, aimed at “particularly families, women and children” who wish to exchange a Rice jersey for that of another Ravens player. The Ravens are no longer selling Rice jerseys, but at least one independent vendor had some Rice action figurines on sale next to his collection of vintage Baltimore Colts wares.

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Overall, fans are split, not by Rice’s actions but more with the Ravens and the NFL’s actions.

If the issue had only been whether what Rice did was wrong or not, then the obvious answer needs no more discussion. Likewise if the issue had been merely whether the punishment was too harsh or too light, that too would have been a cleared up.

Where the entire things gets murky is in the Goodell cover up. Initially giving a two day suspension and then, when the video broke to the media, appeasing the various vultures by suspending Rice indefinitely. It was a weak move.

Even if Goodell lied about not seeing the video in its entirety, he should have stuck to his first ruling (2 day suspension) and not caved, it only made matters more confusing for everyone involved on the field and off. NFL players have done much worse and have gotten off much lighter.

Baltimore fans, for their part, are no strangers to off field scandals, making sure to voice their position outside the stadium:

Paul Kilduff, 65, put two pieces of duct tape over the letters “Ray R” on the back of his faded shirt so that it read “Be Nice” instead of “Ray Rice.” But the tape kept falling off, so he took off the jersey, then put it back on without the tape while uttering, “Ah, I might as well.”

“Everybody deserves a second chance,” he said, a refrain heard often in the parking lot.

But there were plenty of No. 27s, and many of them said they were deliberately making a statement.

“I took the bus here, so people were, like, ‘Good, I’m glad to see to someone out here showing support,'” said Gage Friend, 18, as he learned against the barrier by the players’ entrance. “But I’ve also seen a lot of people giving me dirty looks and people saying stuff to me like, ‘I can’t believe you’d wear that. Don’t you know what he did?’

“Yeah, I’m pretty aware of what he did. And, yes, it was awful and it was definitely a mistake on his part, but he deserves a second chance. … People have done so much worse in this league.”

Others supported the team’s decision to get rid of Rice, including one who called out Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti for not acting sooner.

“He’s a coward,” said Stephanie Wright, 43, from Shrewsbury, Pa. “He was just scared of public opinion so that’s why he just terminated (Rice). … You should be held accountable. If he was a policeman or a firefighter, he would have lost his job immediately.”

References:

http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/26512888/ravens-fans-men-and-women-wear-ray-rice-jerseys-at-thursday-night-game

http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2014/09/09/nfl-gambled-that-ray-rice-video-would-remain-concealed-and-lost/MALPXu3G3DQUA9cfsk3ovN/story.html

http://metro.co.uk/2014/09/11/roger-goodell-ray-rice-suspension-nfl-baltimore-ravens-4864173/

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