I love Baltimore City and am proud to be born and raised here. I love the Baltimore Ravens and I thought, like my city, that love would be unwavering. Even in our darkest rut with little to no wins, I’ve stood by my boys. But my love and respect for The Ravens was shaken quite a bit this offseason.
This devotion began to waver directly after Ray Rice was charged with domestic abuse. If you haven’t seen the video, it shows Rice dragging his fiancé’s unconscious body out of an Atlantic City hotel elevator before security stops him. Bad, I thought, but his punishment will come. I brushed away this frightening accusation against one of my favorite players and continued to think about the upcoming season.
But the destructive behavior from my players kept occurring. Four other Ravens were arrested after Rice, accounting for 25% of the arrests this NFL offseason. That’s pathetic and a huge embarrassment for the Ravens franchise and Charm City.
But again, I tried to brush off arrest after arrest. Besides Rice’s arrest, the other four were seemingly minor and all were released from jail and given small fines for their actions, they got what they deserved (is what I kept telling myself to reason their idiotic behavior.) I expected Ray Rice to be given an extremely harsh punishment for his “incident” (as the Baltimore Ravens like to call it) and though it pains me to admit this, I almost didn’t want him to get one.
That’s a terrible thought, and one I wish I could take back a million times, but it is a gut reaction most die-hard Ravens fans had. This is our star player, we need him to win. And to the shock of many, the NFL answered our sick thoughts at the end of July by handing Rice a two game suspension as his “punishment.” Yes, you read that right. Rice beat his future wife so hard she was knocked out cold. And for that, he received a two game suspension. Two games, half the punishment for steroid use, and well, not even close to the punishment for recreational marijuana use.
And instead of feeling the relief I thought would wash over me, I felt enraged, angered and frankly, embarrassed for my franchise. Unfortunately, none of the Raven’s leaders shared my feelings about the sentence. Head Coach John Harbaugh had the audacity to call Rice a “heck of a guy” stating “he’s done everything right since.” Since what? Since he beat the shit out of his fiancé?
Ravens owner Ozzie Newsome followed Harbaugh’s courageous stand for domestic abuse by expressing to the pubic: “That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect.” Okay, than who was it typical of Ozzie? Because that is Ray Rice dragging his fiancé’s body out of an elevator.
Rice’s “punishment” made me think back to the other “punishments” players also arrested on my team received. Because, when your franchise is host to five players with very recent criminal records, something is wrong. By the nonchalant reactions of the franchise leaders, the terrible behavior of our players makes sense. I’m not saying that behind closed doors they are not being reprimanded, but maybe that’s not enough. Maybe it’s time for The Baltimore Ravens to break the support of their own men and show struggling youths in Baltimore City that this behavior is never acceptable. Ever.
Rice’s lack of suspension enraged football fans, but for those of us in Baltimore, the negative image it portrayed for our city hits harder than any faith a person has lost in the NFL. Not only is one of our best players a domestic abuser, his whole credibility as a role model for the youths of Baltimore is tarnished. And our own franchise cannot bring themselves to take a stand in support of the victim in this “incident.”
As the pre-season games approach, I will put on my Ravens gear and proudly scream the Seven Nation Army Chant at my TV while my roommates stare at me in pure confusion. But, unlike the past years, I will begin to question my team’s integrity and just how much they actually care about my city and community. If somebody runs into Ray Rice, tell him to call Jay-Z up for some pointers on how to treat an angry woman in an elevator.