Ravens star Ray Rice infamously knocked out his fiancée in an elevator – video at 11, and 12, and 1 – yet his fiancée-turned-wife, fans, and colleagues are almost united in their support of him.
Have we as a society lost all sense of proportion in our priorities? Have we lost the ability to be outraged, and then hold the actual culprit responsible for his personal behavior? Does anything go – for fun and profit – as long as it’s our fun and our profit?
One female fan offered a justification for those many fans supporting Rice: “I wear the jersey in support of Ray Rice. I don’t believe in abuse, but she struck him first, and any woman who can hit a man can be hit back.”
Surely this fan knows how big and powerful Ray Rice is. But now he’s the victim?
Even after seeing the sickening video of Rice knockout punching his fiancée, people rush to support Rice.
Indeed, all of the media scrutiny now is being focused on the NFL Commissioner and what he knew and when he knew it. Amidst the media circus is the utterly undeniable fact that Ray Rice committed a felony: aggravated assault (with a deadly weapon). His body is a deadly weapon.
So, why did the NFL protect him for so long? Why did the Ravens initially shift the blame to his fiancée? Why do the Ravens still defend him? What about so many of his fans? Or those in the media?
Obviously, the NFL and the Ravens want to avoid bad publicity and protect their financial investment. Given that Rice is a pretty hot property, losing him could cripple the team. They want to win.
Rice’s teammates don’t want to lose such a valuable asset. Besides, teammates and drinking buddies stick together. Moreover, they don’t want someone else’s secrets to be exposed.
Family, friends, and fans are emotionally-invested in Ray Rice. They micro-analyze every play, memorize every stat, celebrate every victory.
They don’t want to believe the unbelievable – even after seeing the dramatic video of a young man cold-cocking a young woman and nonchalantly dragging her out of an elevator as if it were a normal event.
Some don’t want to believe the worst of their hero.
Some don’t want their team to lose a valuable player and perhaps lose the season.
Some, with both an emotional and financial investment in Rice, don’t want to lose a revenue source.
Some don’t want to admit they were wrong about him.
Despite all the evidence, many will refuse to hold him accountable or they will seek to diminish the significance of what he did.
Some have suggested that the reason so many people are taking Rice’s side over that of his fiancée is that our culture is dominated by sexism and that men get the natural advantage.
It is certainly true that in many cases of spousal abuse, the (usually) female victim is not believed – even by family and friends – because the abuser seems so likeable and such a nice person. Even charmers can be snakes.
But in some situations, perceptions fall prey to power, politics, and money.
In situations between celebrities and non-celebrities, most people are prone to believe the celebrity and question the veracity of the non-celebrity.
Rice was constantly on television, consistently shown in a positive light, a hero on the football field, a fan favorite. Rice was also a money-maker: for the league, for the team, and for his family and friends.
If the reverse were true – if Rice’s fiancée had the wealth, power, prestige, fame, and fans – many would believe whatever she claimed, without any evidence whatsoever, merely because she said it was so.
In our celebrity culture, where entertainment reigns and where entertainment becomes reality itself, people often lose perspective and fail to see the truth when it is right before their eyes.
Almost two decades ago, O.J. Simpson got away with murder. Could Ray Rice do so today?