As an avid sports fan, I’ve watched the Ray Rice saga play out since it was first brought to light in February. Jason Whitlock of ESPN spells out exactly how I felt up until yesterday. In his commentary posted on ESPN.com, he writes “I wrongly and naively thought that she was the aggressor in the attack, that Rice reflexively shoved her to fend her off and she slipped, fell and hit her head.” Why did I think that as well? Because in May, the Baltimore Ravens trotted Ray and Janay Rice out in front of the microphones and cameras for an ill-advised, ill-planned press conference. In this press conference, Janay Rice said “I do deeply regret the role that I played in the incident that night…” In my mind, because she admitted some amount of culpability, and because the police charged both of them with simple assault, that both sides were at fault for what happened.
The video I saw yesterday changed how I felt. I saw a man brutally assault his wife, not a man fending off his wife. I saw a couple in a verbal argument, that was escalated to a violent level by the man. Like many, I was horrified to see Ray Rice’s reaction to his unconscious then-fiancee lying in the floor of an elevator. It was cold, and to me, it also appeared unemotional. There are so many things wrong with how this situation was handled by Ray Rice, Janay (Palmer) Rice, the prosecutor, the judge, the Baltimore Ravens, and the leadership of the NFL. You can read Jason Whitlock’s aforementioned article to see how I feel about this situation, because this blog post is not about the second-guessing of what didn’t happen or what should’ve happened. This post is about Ray Rice the person, and whether or not someone so hated and vilified today should be shown grace, mercy and love on the part of everyone who has been so quick to judge him for his wrong.
I’ve been told I have a tendency to always see the best in people. Sometimes that is a good thing, and sometimes it isn’t. Some people reading this may view my thoughts as being insensitive to the issue of domestic violence, or may view them as giving Ray Rice the benefit of the doubt. Let me say that I am in no way defending what I saw in that video yesterday. What Ray Rice did was brutal. What has transpired is all the consequences of his inability to control his anger, and the consequences of the complete lack of honesty on his part as to what happened in that elevator. The point I want to make is that in my experience as a counselor, and simply has a human being, is that no one gets to the point that Ray Rice did in a split second. It may look that way on a grainy surveillance video, but the assault that took place in that elevator was a lifetime in the making. A man that does something like this has suffered a loss in some way that he has never truly dealt with. He is struggling with anger, bitterness, or unforgiveness toward someone. Or he has been abused himself. Or he was raised in a culture that made this acceptable. In Ray Rice’s case, I believe that I’m right when it comes to the amount of loss he has experienced in his life. I believe the anger we saw in that video is because of a void that he has been trying to come to terms with for his entire life.
As all of this played out yesterday, I remembered reading a profile piece on Ray Rice several years ago. I found that piece online today, thankfully it was still in the archives of the SB Nation Baltimore Ravens blog. You can read it here. Here are some of the main points of his story:
- His father was killed in a drive-by shooting when he was one year old. 3 years later at the trial, it is learned that he wasn’t even the target. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- His aunt, who lived in the same apartment complex as Ray and his mom, died of cancer at age 37. Her son, Ray’s cousin, moved upstairs to live with Ray and his mom.
- This cousin, Shaun, was 10 years older than Ray and became a type of father figure to him. When Ray was 11, Shaun was killed in a car crash.
To recap, between the ages of 1 and 11, Ray Rice lost three people to death way before it was time. Between the ages of 1 and 11, Ray Rice suffered enough loss to last a lifetime. He became the man of his household at a very young age, shouldering great responsibility. You can tell from this quote that the loss of his father, whom he never knew, is still a big part of his life: “Sometimes you wonder what it would be like to have your real dad. Just for a walk in the park or just recapping our lives. That’s the part that makes me think.”
I wonder if the emotionless man standing over the woman he had just beaten was still the little boy who never knew his dad and lost the only other father-figure he never knew. I wonder if years of anger that he had been able to release on the football field came washing over him at a moment he couldn’t take back. You see, beyond all of the criticism and self righteousness, beyond all of the people who are making sick jokes, is a man and his wife who will have to relive the most horrific moment of their relationship over and over again. Their children will have to live with this their entire lives. Such are the consequences of mistakes like this.
I hope that soon, Ray and Janay Rice will begin to heal from this, and will begin to experience the grace, mercy, and love from the one and only true source. I pray that Ray Rice can replace the void of losing his two earthly father-figures with the love of his heavenly Father. I pray that in 5 or 10 years, we are able to hear a great story of healing and redemption from two people who have put the past behind them.
Ray Rice is no more or no less of a sinner than I am. We are equals. The difference exists in the eyes of man. Grace, mercy and love are the answers for anyone who falls short, even Ray Rice.