I don’t feel that my voice needs to be added to the growing chorus of disbelief and anger over the NFL’s trivial response to Ray Rice’s assault of his (then-)fiancee. I, one of nineteen Baltimore Ravens fans in the Boston metro area, am not the tipping point that will sway Roger Goodell to let right be done. But I’ve come to believe in the past year that, while you’re not solely responsible for the sins of everyone on your side of the fence, you do need to step back from time to time if you don’t want to be counted with them. You need to say, “This is not me.” Silence implies consent.
I have nothing to add to the general outrage, the incisive comparisons (a whole season for marijuana possession, now legal in a couple of states, versus 2 games for knocking a woman unconscious, still a crime in all of them), or the broader conclusions drawn. Professionals are writing and have written about that, and more is yet to come. But, as someone who follows Ravens news in the offseason, I can add one thing:
Ray Rice is the fifth Baltimore Ravens player to be arrested this offseason. Cornerback Jimmy Smith is the most recent: misdemeanor disorderly after a brief, nonviolent argument with cops. The others are offensive lineman Jah Reid (misdemeanor assault in a Key West strip club), wide receiver Deonte Thompson (felony possession of marijuana; charges dropped), and rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (misdemeanor destruction of property and public intoxication, following a drunken argument with a cab driver). Discounting the marijuana arrest, since that’s bullshit, that’s still four players in as many months.
The cliche about a fish rotting from the head remains true. In any large organization, people look to their superiors for cues on how to act, or at least on what will receive a blind eye. The Baltimore Ravens are not the only football team whose players drink or brawl in their free time. They’re not the only team whose players have been arrested before training camp. But no other team has had more than two.
I know a lot of readers would find it ridiculous to think that Ray Lewis, himself arrested in connection with a double homicide and who pled guilty to obstruction of justice, was a force for discipline on the Ravens. But in his absence, who are younger players – and, Rice excepted, these are all young guys – going to look to? Joe Flacco, the Lego man brought to life by a dying child’s wish?
But you don’t need me telling you there’s a culture of indifference within the Ravens organization. You can read it from the owner himself, Steve Bisciotti, who wrote (through senior VP of PR Kevin Byrne), that Rice “has shown remorse after a bad incident. It was out of character.” Head coach John Harbaugh also said Ray is “a heck of a guy.” What incentive would a player have not to knock some sense into his bride if he can expect this sort of homecoming?