A New Jersey prosecutor committed a grievous offense when he let Ravens running back Ray Rice off with little more than a warning for assaulting his then-fiancee, now wife. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell compounded that offense by handing Rice an appallingly light suspension of just two games.
If the legal system isn’t going to do the right thing, and the NFL isn’t going to do the right thing, I’m holding out hope that one group of people will do the right thing. Those people are Ravens fans. And the right thing is to voice the disapproval of the millions of us who were sickened this morning when we saw that video of Rice punching his wife and knocking her unconscious.
The right thing is to boo Ray Rice when he returns from that two-game suspension and takes the field for his first home game of the season on September 28 against the Panthers.
Boo him when he walks on the field for pregame warmups.
Boo him when he lines up for the first time with the Ravens’ offense.
Boo him the first time he gets the ball.
Send a message that even if people in positions of leadership — like a prosecutor and a commissioner — don’t grasp the seriousness of domestic violence, we ordinary Americans do. Send a message that some things simply cannot be tolerated even from our sports idols, and what Ray Rice did in that elevator is one of those things.
I’m sorry to say that I’m not optimistic that Ravens fans will do the right thing. Ravens fans have already cheered Rice loudly, at training camp and in the preseason. They’re probably going to cheer him loudly when he comes back from his suspension. And they’re certainly going to cheer Rice loudly the first time he helps the Ravens win a game. I’m a football fan. I get it. There’s going to be some game when Rice scores a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, and Ravens fans, without thinking, will stand and cheer in unison. It’s what sports fans do.
But the Ravens fans who cheered Rice before hadn’t seen that video. Now Ravens fans have 20 days to think about how they’ll greet Rice in his first home game after his suspension. They should think about whether they want to be the fan base that cares about nothing other than whether a player can help his team win, or the fan base that sends a powerful message that some things matter more than touchdowns.