Ray Rice was once the most toxic name in sports, the embodiment of the NFL’s domestic violence problem and the last person the league or the Baltimore Ravens wanted to associate themselves with. This has changed.
The Ravens announced that on Sunday they will honor Rice as a “Legend of the Game,” a game day tradition in Baltimore to recognize a former player for their accomplishments on and off the field.
But does Rice deserve to be honored? In 2014, he was filmed hitting his then-fiancée, now wife, so hard that he knocked her unconscious, then dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator. After he was arrested for assault, the NFL initially suspended him for only two games, sparking anger – which turned into widespread public outrage when the video became public.
The Ravens cut him and his NFL career was over. So why pay homage to him now?
Rice says paying tribute to him allows him to show that he has changed.
“I truly understand why I was released and why so many hearts were changed. But I hope people can see where I am now. They say people can change, right? I am not the same person I was 10-12 years old. That’s just not who I am,” Rice told the Ravens website. “Every time I stepped on the field, I gave it my all. But I couldn’t say the same about life .Now I try to be the best version of myself.
Ravens president Sashi Brown, who was hired by the Ravens last year and was not with the team during Rice’s career, defended Rice as a man worthy of being honored.
“He was also constantly out in the community and giving back. What’s important is that after Ray’s incident, he owned it,” Brown said. “In his own right, Ray has undertaken critical work in himself and to raise awareness and educate others about domestic violence. Nothing will change or fix his past, but Ray’s work has allowed him to atone for his actions and rebuild his personal and professional relationships, including with the Ravens.
Rice’s reception from Ravens fans will likely be mostly positive: Nearly a decade later, fans tend to remember the good times. Additionally, the Ravens will honor Rice in a big game where the Ravens can take home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Baltimore fans will be excited to cheer on their Ravens.
Outside of Baltimore, the reaction may be different, with many questions about why someone who did what Rice did deserves to be treated as a hero.
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