Had it not been for some timely video footage, Ray Rice would now be free to play for the Baltimore Ravens. Fans would be lining up to buy his shirt and get his autograph.
News website TMZ put an end to those plans. It released footage of Rice knocking out his now wife Janay in a casino elevator with a left hook to the head.
Finally, seven months after the event, all hell broke loose.
The Ravens punted him from the club. The NFL, which had suspended Rice for a mere two games, said he may not come back.
It brought in former FBI Director Robert Mueller, no less, to investigate its handling of the matter. It could have got JK Simmons, the guy who played the intelligence officer in Burn After Reading, to reprise his immortal words: “What a clusterf*ck.”
Meanwhile, we all scratched our heads in wonder at this sudden development of a spine.
I’m not sure what they thought had transpired in that elevator. They’d already seen the video of Rice dragging Janay from the lift and dumping her unconscious on the carpet. Did they think she’d fallen into a deep sleep between floors?
The Nation reporter Dave Zirin has argued very articulately that showing the footage makes Janay Palmer Rice a victim all over again. Janay herself has described it as a ‘horrible nightmare’.
The footage is important though. It shouldn’t be but it is.
Before either of these two tapes became public, Rice’s lawyer was able to dismiss the incident as a ‘minor physical altercation’. Janay was wheeled out to do a joint press conference with her husband where he talked obliquely about ‘the situation my wife and I were in’ and she apologised for her role in it. The Ravens tweeted her comments.
Before the second tape was released, Ray Rice was apparently able to persuade his teammates that it had all been an act of self-defence. Which means none of these guys is joining Mensa any time soon.
“Seeing the video makes such a difference,” says Tania Tetlow, director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at Tulane University. “Even though we knew these facts before, it was easy for the public to minimise the damage done to the victim — to think about domestic violence as vaguely mutual and provoked — and then dismiss it as a private matter.”
Some people still haven’t learned, though.
Fox News presenter Brian Kilmeade said: “I think the message is: take the stairs.” Right, because no woman has ever been pushed down the stairs, Brian.
DiGiorno Pizza is apologising left, right and centre after posting this under the Twitter hashtag #WhyIStayed, where women explain why they can’t leave their abusers.
Boxer Floyd Mayweather, twice convicted of domestic violence, said: “I think there’s a lot worse things that go on in other people’s households.” He later apologised, saying he hadn’t been in possession of all the facts ‘because I’m training for a fight’.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who says he didn’t see the assault footage until this week, is fending off Associated Press claims that police sent the video to the NFL in April.
And some Ravens fans, including women, are still wearing their No. 27 jerseys in support of Rice.
Twenty years ago today, Bill Clinton signed the Violence Against Women Act into law. Joe Biden rates it as ‘my proudest legislative accomplishment’, delivering a 64 per cent drop in domestic violence rates.
That is a great achievement. But as this tawdry episode shows, there’s a long way to go.
Ray Rice may have been the only person in the elevator with Janay Palmer Rice that night but he was not her only abuser.