Rice’s repentance tour
An NFL star’s stern message on domestic violence
In an elevator at a casino in February 2014, Ray Rice, the former star running back of the Baltimore Ravens, did something that has haunted him ever since. The initial hallway footage of the incident showed Mr. Rice dragging his fiancee, Janay Palmer, from an elevator. She was unconscious. The optics were bad enough, even without the actual punch being seen.
For months after that, Mr. Rice, the National Football League and the Ravens danced around what might be considered appropriate punishment for domestic abuse. Women’s advocacy groups were outraged by what they complained were mere wrist-slapping measures meted out for such a serious offense. He and Ms. Palmer married a month after the incident, and she defended him publicly.
But in September 2014, the gossip site TMZ broadcast the elevator footage of Mr. Rice punching Ms. Palmer unconscious with one blow. His career in the NFL hung in jeopardy. The Ravens tore up Mr. Rice’s contract after having defended him most of the year. Later that month, the NFL launched its own independent review of the events in light of new evidence. In the meantime, Mr. Rice, who had finally expressed genuine repentance for what he did, remained unsigned and untouchable by other NFL teams.
For his part, Mr. Rice spoke out on the subject and aimed his message at young men much like himself who needed to hear blunt warnings about domestic violence. Recently, Mr. Rice agreed to be featured as part of an hourlong NFL-sponsored video about the scourge of domestic violence.
Slowly, Ray Rice is becoming the face of a football league much more sensitive to domestic violence. The NFL is no longer tolerant of behavior it once sanctioned with meaningless punishment, bureaucratic inaction and indifference. Mr. Rice may never play professional football again, but his crusade to confront domestic violence is as worthy a legacy as winning the Super Bowl.