Janay Palmer still married him.
As the football world debates the despicable actions of Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice in punching out his then-fiancee and dragging her through a casino, I cannot shake that thought.
Palmer was knocked out cold and pulled through an Atlantic City hotel hallway like a sack of potatoes, physically abused and publicly humiliated.
Three months later, she married the guy.
I don’t get it.
As the father of three daughters, Palmer’s action troubles me more than those of Rice.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. Rice’s beating of his fiancee is disgusting. The NFL’s two-game punishment is too lenient. The rationalizations of some commentators in blaming the victim are abhorrent.
And the Ravens’ fans who gave Rice a standing ovation as he returned to practice are blind enablers.
That all troubles me deeply. But that’s not what troubles me most.
No, not even close.
One day after Rice was indicted on felony assault charges — which carry a prison sentence of up to five years — Palmer married him.
What was she thinking? We all urge spouses to get out of abusive marriages. Palmer got into one. The prosecution’s star witness just married the defendant.
It is a world I cannot begin to understand. And I hope my daughters feel the same.
For starters, I may weigh half as much as Rice on a rainy day, but the punishment of the NFL and the criminal justice system would have paled in comparison to that of me and my wife. Don’t mess with my daughter; once you do, you’d better not ever come around again.
Let’s not sugar-coat the facts. Palmer was less than a model of decorum, reportedly spitting in Rice’s face during the February argument on the casino floor. But Rice, who is in the middle of a five-year, $35-million contract, responded with an uppercut that decked her, according to witnesses present. Rice then dragged the unconscious Palmer onto and off of the elevator.
Does anyone really believe that this public display was the first sign of a domestic abuse problem?
Still, Palmer married him. The two have a daughter together, Rayven. Not only that, but consider this:
• She joined Rice at a news conference to apologize for “my role in that night;”
• She now reportedly refuses to testify against Rice, making the prosecution case problematic and increasing the likelihood that there will be no legal consequences; and
• She urged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during a face-to-face meeting at which her husband was present to reduce whatever suspension Rice received
In short, Palmer had a chance to stand up to domestic violence. Instead, she excused and enabled it.
To quote that old 1960s saying, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
There is plenty of this problem to go around — from the dearth of black commentators willing to take on and unequivocally condemn Rice (e.g. Steven A. Smith and Whoopi Goldberg) to the Ravens’ organization (which has rallied around Rice as if were a victim) to the NFL (which continues to downplay the biggest criminal and substance abuse issues facing it).
Yes, this is not a football-only issue, touching upon a significant portion of our society that continues to excuse the perpetrator and blame the victim; “provocation,” as Smith infamously opined on ESPN.
At the end of the day, though, the most profound decisions rest with those who have direct control over the situation.
Rice is responsible for his actions. The consequences should be greater in my view. At least, I hope Colts fans would not be cheering his return to the practice field, as happened in Baltimore.
Palmer is also responsible. Not for getting punched. No, she is not to blame, no matter what led to the blow. But there is responsibility for what happened afterward.
She could have taken a stand for herself and for her child. She did not. Instead, she married the man who knocked her out and now intercedes (apparently successfully) in reducing or eliminating his punishment.
I just don’t get it. And I hope my daughters don’t, either.