Given the haste with which the team — who had unconditionally supported Rice during this entire event — dropped him, it is safe to say that even if the Ravens and the NFL league office, who are both maintaining increasingly dubious claims that they had not seen the recording, had not seen the surveillance video before today, Rice would still be on the team if the footage had not reached the public eye. This is, almost certainly, because the National Football League believes that their fans at large don’t care about domestic violence, at least not enough to affect the league’s bottom line; you can still spend $60 on your very own pink Ray Rice V-Neck, just like you’ve been able to for the last seven months, because remember: news of the incident surfaced back in Feburary.
This is the league and the team who almost certainly saw the inside-the-elevator footage that was leaked earlier (Deadspin has a wonderful breakdown of the who have and have not in regards to that), and the situation was described best by that site’s Barry Petchesky, that “[p]rivately, top reporters were told in no uncertain terms that the video existed, that the NFL had seen it, that it showed Janay Palmer acting violently toward Rice, and that, if released, it would go some way toward mitigating the anger against him. One of the league’s most devoted mouthpieces described the video for us on an off-the-record basis, going off what his sources had told him. The implication was clear: If you saw this video, you’d know why Rice only got two games.”
Now that we’ve all seen that video, we know that’s nonsense. Further, now that the Ravens and the NFL have seen us all watch that video, they’ve realized that they can’t get away with that position.
Remember: this is the league that goaded the Rices to appear at their first press conference together after the incident and allowed Rice to get away without apologizing to his wife, although she managed to say that she apologized for the role that she played in the fight — which seems even more preposterous now that the footage is public. While the NFL can say that they hadn’t seen the video, which Rice’s attorney initially described as “a ‘very minor physical altercation’” to the Baltimore Sun back in February, that’s not likely at all. We know the police saw it. We know that the Ravens PR people know that the police saw it. We know that the NFL requested incident footage from the police department, so if the league office had really never seen the tape, it could only be from a lack of trying.
Ray Rice is still in the wrong, but he’s always been in the wrong — morally and ethically speaking. The difference between the Rice of today and the Rice of the last seven months — and the reason why the NFL is now distancing themselves from the player they spent the last half of the year apologizing for — is that the footage is public. The crime, as far as the league is concerned, has very little to do with domestic violence. The crime is embarrassing the NFL for all the world to see.