Yesterday, my esteemed colleague Manny Schewitz expressed his opinion on why it’s time that the American public “get over it” and forgive Ray Rice. And while I value Manny’s opinion, and he is certainly entitled to it, I couldn’t disagree more.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for second chances in most cases. But I believe second chances need to be earned, not just given “because enough time has passed and that person has already been punished.” Punishments have nothing to do with forgiveness. Any kind of punishment is a consequence of something negative. Forgiveness should be given only when someone shows actual remorse for what they’ve done.
And when I look at Rice’s actions following the incident, I don’t see someone who’s generally sorry for what he did, but someone who’s sorry that they got caught. When I watch that video, what bothers me most isn’t the punch exactly, but how little concern he shows for his then-fiancée (now his wife) Janay Rice. There she was, unconscious on the floor of an elevator, with him having no clue if she might have been seriously injured by the blow she sustained, and what does Rice do? Practically nothing. He more or less stands there next to her unconscious body until the elevator gets to his floor. He then drags her about halfway out of the elevator, leaving her laying face first on the ground with her legs still in the elevator.
But let’s look at a timeline of events, shall we?
In February (before any video was released to the public), Rice’s lawyer described what happened as a “minor physical altercation.” Yeah, a “minor” altercation where he punched a woman so brutally it knocked her unconscious. That was the spin Rice and his representatives tried to put on this incident before the public finally saw him dragging her unconscious body from the elevator. (Keep in mind that the video of the punch itself wasn’t made public until September.)
On March 27, Rice is formally indicted on aggravated assault charges which carry a maximum of 5 years in prison. These charges were actually upped from the simple assault he was originally charged with by the prosecution and grand jury upon seeing the footage of the attack.
And “magically” on March 28, Ray and Janay Rice were married. Meaning that she would no longer be required to testify against Ray Rice now that she was his wife.
Yeah, real “remorseful.” Get married months ahead of your original wedding date so your now-wife won’t be required to testify against you.
On May 1, Rice rejected a plea deal that wouldn’t have required jail time, pleading not guilty and applying for a first-timers program that would clear him of all charges after six months.
So up to this point Rice tried to claim this was a “minor incident,” got married the day after he was indicted so that his wife wouldn’t have to testify against him and pleaded not guilty to take advantage of a program so that in six months his record would be clear of the fact that he brutally assaulted a woman.
Now, am I saying he shouldn’t have done any of this? Not at all. He played the “legal game” and everything he did was allowed under the law. Though one might have to wonder if he wasn’t a rich and famous football player, if the law would have been so kind to Mr. Rice.
Fast forward to July 24, and the announcement that after all of this Rice would only be suspended two games – a decision that generated a great deal of controversy.
Then came September 8, when all hell broke loose. That’s when TMZ released to the public, for the very first time, the actual video of Ray Rice punching Janay Rice. That same day he was released by the Baltimore Ravens and indefinitely suspended by the NFL. On September 16, just 8 days after being indefinitely suspended, Rice appealed his suspension.
Still not reinstated, it’s reported on October 21 that Ray Rice filed a grievance for wrongful termination and was seeking back pay from the Baltimore Ravens.
Legal maneuvering to get the lightest punishment possible, appealing a harsher punishment handed down by the NFL, seeking back pay because he claims he was wrongfully released by the Baltimore Ravens – yeah, he’s really trying to “own up” to what he did, isn’t he?
And all of this brings us to just a few days ago when an independent arbiter reversed Rice’s indefinite suspension, allowing him to sign with any team he likes. Though the decision on whether or not he will be paid back pay from the Baltimore Ravens has yet to be settled.
Again, I’m not saying Rice was wrong for using any legal means offered to him to receive the lightest punishment possible. But we’re not really talking about the legalities of any of this. What we’re talking about is whether the American public should “get over it” and forgive Ray Rice. As Manny stated in his piece:
“The guy paid the price by losing his job and millions of dollars. The NFL was apparently well aware of the incident when handing out the initial suspension and only issued the indefinite suspension after it got out that they were aware of the video in the beginning. Ray Rice did a terrible thing, but he didn’t try to lie or mislead anybody about what happened. What’s more, he took full responsibility for his actions and expressed genuine remorse.”
First, the NFL has nothing to do with whether or not we should forgive Rice for his actions. Because, again, forgiveness isn’t based upon any kind of legal or work-related punishment. I don’t care if Rice lost “millions of dollars.” Is he owed forgiveness quicker because he lost more money than the average person would have if they had been let go from a job? And just because the NFL completely botched the handling of this, that has nothing to do with the reality of what Rice actually did and how people should feel about him.
And I don’t care at all that he might be coming to the end of his NFL career. I’m not sure what that has to do with whether or not he deserves to be forgiven. Are we supposed to feel sorry for him because if he missed a full year that might signal the end of his career?
Forgiveness should be based upon the genuine remorse one shows about what they did. Some people, like Manny, claim that Rice has shown genuine remorse. I’m not seeing any of that.
His representatives did try to mislead the public before the initial video was released and he never really took “full responsiblity” for what he did. While it’s true he admitted to what he did, he couldn’t really try to deny it because there was indisputable video evidence of what happened. But when it came down to him accepting whatever punishment he would be given for his actions – he did just about everything he could to get off as easily as possible.
And when the NFL finally did slap him with an indefinite suspension, instead of saying to himself, “Okay, I’ll take this year off and spend it proving that I’m not the man depicted in that video and I am truly sorry for what I did” – he almost immediately appealed the suspension and claimed he was wrongfully terminated by the Baltimore Ravens.
This isn’t about “punishing him over and over,” it’s about Rice showing actual remorse for what he did by not fighting any and every possible punishment that’s been levied at him. But that’s exactly what he’s done since the very beginning of this.
So in this particular instance, I’m going to have to completely disagree with my colleague on this issue.
When I look at Ray Rice’s actions, and what he’s done since he violently assaulted Janay Rice, I don’t see someone who’s really sorry for what he did – but someone who’s sorry that there were cameras that caught him doing it.
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