John Grindrod: A mistake in an elevator

First Posted: 9/15/2014

Even if you don’t follow sports and couldn’t have picked Ray Rice out of a lineup, you certainly know him now.

Thanks to TMZ, we saw the shocking and graphic video of what a man’s reaction must never be when dealing with a conflict with a woman. His close-fisted reaction rendered a woman unconscious in an elevator in the Revel Casino in Atlantic City last February.

Like many of you, I was both transfixed and repulsed by both the video and the layers being unpeeled on a story that transcends the world of football. The story has little to do with how the Baltimore Ravens will replace Rice’s considerable offensive production and everything to do with a societal problem far bigger than an industry like the NFL.

I’m willing to admit that the problem of domestic violence in the NFL is probably not larger than the problem that exists in the entire country. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every four women will be victimized by domestic violence in her lifetime. The Rice incident and the league’s tepid initial reaction to it — including the explanations and reactions to the public’s outrage by Commissioner Roger Goodell — are noteworthy because they are so widely publicized. And, of course, they are reprehensible for reasons far beyond the fact that there was video of the assault.

As someone whose own father was killed in a drive-by shooting when he was 1 and was raised by a loving single mom who would run his bath water after bruising football practices in New Rochelle, N.Y., to ease his hurt, Ray Rice should have known better. As the brother of a sister, he should known better. As the father of a precious little daughter, he should have known better.

I suppose, given the slap on the wrist the New Jersey legal justice system gave Rice in the aftermath (no fine, no jail time, not even probation — rather, a mandate to attend anger-management classes), it shouldn’t have been surprising Goodell’s initial punishment was an unconscionably short two-game suspension. The video, once it surfaced, forced his hand to suspend the star running back indefinitely.

Of course, there was that embarrassingly inept and disingenuous interview with Norah O’Donnell last Wednesday on CBS, one that offered a whole collection of rationalizations and justifications that left me more skeptical than those moments years ago when one of my lovely daughters would spin a story as to just how that cookie jar on the top shelf in the kitchen came to such an untimely end on the linoleum floor.

The news cycle, no doubt, will continue to spin on this whole sordid affair for some time. It always does on stories that are collectively larger than the individuals who comprise them. I suspect there will be speculations, investigations and perhaps even some resignations.

At the end of the day, however, there will be one crystal clear reality when it comes to Mr. Ray Rice, and, that is this. Whether it’s fair or not — and this is especially true for those to whom have been given so much — people will always be judged by moments in their lives. Those moments are sometimes the absolute best moments and sometimes the absolute worst.

From the moment this story gained national attention, I believe that is the reality for Ray Rice, just 28 years old. Whatever community work in Baltimore that he has done during his seven years with the Ravens, however many little old ladies he helps across the street, from this moment forward, he will always be remembered for what happened in an elevator at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., in February 2014.