Purple Pride: Where NFL Fandom & Domestic Violence Collide

We bond over our black and purple; we reflect in pride over our 2013 Super Bowl win. We wait eagerly for football season to arrive and to celebrate our amazing athletes. We love our Ravens – and we should hold them accountable for both the good and bad that they do in our community.

This past February, our local star Ray Rice physically assaulted his wife in an elevator. After waiting for the elevator doors to close, he hit her multiple times and managed to knock her unconscious. Afterward, he dragged her out of the elevator. This event was captured on video surveillance at the hotel where the incident occurred and the video was later released. A horrible act of domestic violence was committed, and few disputed this. Out of respect for his wife, Janay Palmer, I will not be adding the violent content to this blog post.

Hardly anything was done upon the original release of this content, which only showed the aftermath of his attack. After a pretrial intervention in May, Rice became exempt from prosecution, and his charges will be expunged from his record within a year. Recently, a two-game suspension was issued. Seven months after the tape first surfaced, a second one was released that showed the attack in its entirety. It was only at this point that Ray Rice’s contract was terminated by the Ravens, and soon after the NFL banned the athlete indefinitely. Upon immediate release of this information, my social media feeds were flooded with remarks like:

“There should be a separation between the personal and the public.”

“His wife stayed with him; if she’s okay with this, then the Ravens should be too.”

“I just don’t think a man’s career should be ruined over one mistake.”

“No one knows what she said to provoke him… He was just being a man.”

Seriously, people?

This act of violence goes well beyond a superstar making a very, very poor decision. This is about power dynamics. This is about accountability. This is about black men and black women. This is about domestic violence, and how major corporations handle offenders. Domestic violence is a crime. It occurs within all racial, age, and religious groups. It happens regardless of your soci0-economic status and level of education. No one is exempt, and everyone should be held accountable. Ray Rice was not subjected to the typical consequences of his actions (jail-time, specifically). He was protected by his status, and consequently his wife was not. Add this to his being a representation of the NFL, the Ravens, and Black America, and we have a huge problem.

When a black man in power hurts a black woman, he sends a message to the community. It is up to us to decide how he is received from there. When the footage was brushed under the rug initially, we said “it’s okay to hurt your wife if you’re a millionaire, just say you’re sorry and your career will not be in jeopardy.” To young black men everywhere, the message was “you can hit your partner and get away with it, as long as you’re exceptionally talented.” To black women everywhere, the message was “your body, your life, and your safety are not priorities if your partner is an asset to our society and our industry.” I can’t help but think how this scenario would’ve played out differently if Ray Rice critically injured, or even killed, his wife during this incident. Is that what it takes to penalize assailants?

As a Ravens fan and an advocate against domestic violence, I have struggled with this news. However delayed, I am glad that both the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL did the correct thing in removing Ray Rice from their community. This football season, I will be expressing my purple pride in solidarity with domestic violence victims, and I hope that many of you will do the same.

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