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VOL. 129 | NO. 149 | Friday, August 1, 2014
Don Wade

Don Wade

Real Pastime: Forgiving Our Stars

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A story on baltimoreravens.com carried the following headline: “Ravens fans give Ray Rice a standing ovation.”

On the team website, this was breaking – not to mention good – news. The first paragraph from that story then described Rice reacting to his adoring fans.

“Ray Rice pounded his chest twice and pointed up to the crowd,” the story read. “It was clear this moment meant a lot to him.”

Well, at least he was pounding his chest and not his fiancée’s face.

We’ve all seen the video tape. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has seen the video tape. Rice is dragging his future wife out of an elevator at a casino. Unless she hit her head on the floor trying to make an ankle tackle – Rice is a running back, after all – then Rice either rendered her unconscious by his hand or aliens were involved.

Janay Rice walked into the elevator under her own power and then this sculpted 5-foot-8, 212-pound man dragged her out of the elevator. And yet no one seems to mind all that much. Better that than, say, Ray tearing his ACL.

Obligatory outrage has been pointed at the NFL and Goodell, who willingly wore the mantle of “enforcer” while suspending players for much lesser offenses, including testing positive for trace amounts of marijuana.

This, however, is bigger than one league and one commissioner.

For all the advances we supposedly have made as a society in general and a sports society in particular, it still remains open season on the wives and girlfriends of pro athletes if the athletes are good enough.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has said what Rice did was “wrong,” but he mostly has been blocking for his best running back by saying, “I’m proud of him for the way he handled it, OK? I’m disappointed in what happened, but you go forward.”

Presumably toward the end zone.

Janay Rice reportedly told Goodell in a meeting that what happened in the elevator was a “one-time event” as she pleaded for leniency on Ray’s behalf.

So Goodell suspended Rice for two games. And fans cheered Rice at a Ravens open practice. Some even showed up wearing his No. 27 jersey. Talk about having a guy’s back …

Rice, all things considered, has been the target of very little criticism. The NFL, Goodell and the Ravens, sure, they’ve taken some heat. Rice? Not so much.

Or more to the point, far less than former NFL coach and current network broadcaster Tony Dungy took when he said, if in less than his most eloquent language, that he might not have drafted Michael Sam because of the potential “distractions.”

Dungy would later clarify that he was speaking to the media scrutiny and not the fact that Sam is gay. But by the time Dungy did that the national media had – without realizing it – proved his point by skewering him.

Rice’s incident has dragged out, so to speak, since he pulled Janay from that elevator in February. Rice appeared at a press conference with her in May, but failed to publicly apologize. Finally, at another press conference on Thursday, July 31, at training camp in Owings Mills, Md., Rice stated the obvious:

“My actions were inexcusable.”

Rice went on say he dreads the day his 2-year-old daughter can go on the Internet and read all about it.

“I know that’s not who I am as a man,” said Rice, who was charged with felony aggravated assault but accepted into a diversionary program that kept him out of jail and allows for the possibility of getting the charge expunged from his record.

Rice also said that “when the time is right” he and Janay would speak out against domestic violence. “Especially man on woman,” he said. “It’s not right, shouldn’t be tolerated.”

As for his two-game suspension and the approximate $529,000 in lost wages, he said: “I don’t have any control over what punishment was. I’m being punished on a daily basis.”

And there you have it, sports fans. In the end, the superstar athlete really still sees himself as the victim.

Janay, you might want to borrow a helmet.

Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.

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