UB Marketing Professor: Ray Rice, NFL can do more to clean up images

The 2014 NFL season started with scandal when the video of what happened in the fight between former Ravens running back Ray Rice and his then-fiancé (now wife), inside an elevator in the Revel Casino in Atlantic City was released to the public. After that, a handful of other players were arrested and charged with domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. In spite of achieving all-time highs in both TV ratings and revenue, the season ended with accusations that the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots used underhand lated footballs during the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts, as well as possibly during the Divisional Round against the Ravens. After such a scandal-plagued season, a UB professor says both Rice and the NFL can do more to improve their images.

Dr. Dennis Pitta, a Professor of Marketing in the Merrick School of Business, gave Rice credit for taking responsibility for knocking his now-wife Janay unconscious, and acknowledging that it was wrong and shouldn’t have happened. However, Pitta said there’s still one more piece to the puzzle that Rice can work on more.

“The third piece is that getting some kind of treatment therapy help to prevent it from happening in the future,” Pitta said, adding that there’s a way Rice can help other players from ending up in the same situation he got into.

“You know what I’d love to see him do? I’d love to see him do a workshop for other NFL players with the same kind of issues to show how he has gone from a guy who was abusive to his fiancé to a man who’s going to protect his wife,” Pitta said.

Pitta said by doing this, Rice can be more effective in getting through to the players, especially young players, than an outside professional like he did.

Rice wasn’t the only player arrested for violence against women and children this past season. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse in Texas after using a switch to punish his four-year-old son for misbehaving. Peterson’s been suspended by the NFL until April 15. Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was also arrested and charged with domestic violence, but those charges were dropped on Feb. 9 when his ex-girlfriend, the woman who accused him, wasn’t available to help prosecutors build a case against Hardy. He’s expected to be released by the Panthers this spring and become a free agent. San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald was arrested and charged with sexual assault over Labor Day weekend, and was released by the team in December. Pitta says he’d like to see the NFL institute workshops for its players similar to what Maryland law requires for employees.

“We have Title IX kind of workshops to avoid any kind of sexual harassment issues. It’s mandatory. Everybody’s got to do it. The NFL should have a mandatory program so that anybody who is a critic could look in and say, ‘Oh, they do this. Everybody’s got to do it. No one’s going to escape. No one is the Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl and get away and miss this.’ You need complete transparency. You need complete, comprehensive coverage of every player in the league,” Pitta said.

He said social media is playing a role in making it harder for the NFL to look the other way when such major issues and scandals crop up.

“Back in the day, when social media wasn’t so prevalent, so important, so powerful, the NFL could just shrug its shoulders, probably, and move on; but now there are organizations, watchdog groups that hold people accountable for what they’ve done, and what’s happening. The NFL is in a new era,” Pitta said. He says the NFL should make an effort to work with groups that advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“They’re going to be working with their critics, and the only way the critics are going to be satisfied is if they see their input is taken and they see some work that’ll probably be effective,” Pitta said. With women becoming a bigger part of the NFL’s fan base, Pitta said the league can continue to sell its female fans on the greatness of the sport, and how it’s working with its players on being people who can be respected. He said that approach will have a better approach than just sweeping a problem under the rug and looking the other way. Pitta said football is here to stay, and the NFL will be able to overcome the scandals of this past season, but only until the next major controversy pops up.

Rice’s Suspension Overturned; Teams Expressing Interest

Ray Rice will be able to resume his NFL career.

The former Ravens running back’s appeal was heard earlier this month in New York City by former U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones on Nov. 5 and 6. During the hearings, Rice and his wife Janay, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Ravens President Dick Cass and General Manager Ozzie Newsome were among the key figures who were called to testify. On Nov. 28, Judge Jones released her decision, and ruled that Goodell’s indefinite suspension of Rice was “arbitrary.” Jones went on to write that because the imposition of discipline wasn’t consistent, “an abuse of discretion” had occurred on Goodell’s part. She also wrote that the NFL failed to prove that Rice was misleading when he and his wife met with Commissioner Goodell at the league offices back in June. However, Judge Jones did allow the league’s original two-game suspension to stand.

In the days since Rice’s reinstatement, ESPN has been reporting that four teams are expressing interest in rice, including the Saints and Colts. However, ESPN’s sources are reporting that it’s unlikely any teams will sign Rice before the end of this season. Any team that might sign Rice now would be a playoff contender that’s dealing with injuries to its running backs. Another factor is reportedly how Rice would be received in the locker room. Another scenario is that Rice may wait and see what happens during the offseason.

Ravens cut Rice after video shows what happened in the elevator incident

After surveillance video was obtained by TMZ Sports in February showing Ravens running back Ray Rice dragging the unconscious body of his then-fiancee Janay Palmer out of an elevator inside the now-closed Revel Casino during Valentine’s Day weekend in Atlantic City, New Jersey, many people were wondering what really happened inside the elevator that resulted in Palmer becoming unconscious. Now, video from inside the elevator has been obtained by TMZ Sports showing what happened inside the elevator that night. Rice’s football future is now very uncertain.

After the video was picked up by media outlets early on Sept. 8, the NFL and the Ravens acted swiftly. The Ravens terminated Rice’s contract that afternoon, and the NFL followed suit by suspending Rice indefinitely. League spokesman Greg Aiello says league investigators had asked investigators in Atlantic City for all available video evidence, but the league hadn’t seen the video until it was released by TMZ, Local sportscasters are questioning how the NFL can say it had all the video when it made the controversial decision to suspend Rice for just two games.

The video shows Rice and Palmer appear to exchange words, and then Rice hit Palmer first. Palmer retaliated by slapping Rice, who responded with a punch that caught Palmer in the head, knocking her off her feet. Her head then hit the hand rail inside the elevator, knocking her unconscious. The surveillance camera inside the elevator then shows Rice dragging Palmer’s body out into the hallway.

The decision by the Ravens brings Rice’s time with the team, which started when the one-time Heisman Trophy candidate was drafted out of Rutgers in 2008.

NFL institutes new domestic violence policy

Ray Rice has begun serving his two-game suspension for his fight with his then-fiancee, but the fallout from that fight continues to have a wide-reaching impact throughout the NFL.

On August 28, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced in a letter to all 32 team owners that the league would be implementing a new policy for domestic violence offenses by its players as part of its personal conduct policy, according to ESPN.com. Under the domestic violence section of the policy, which was unanimously approved by the owners, a player will be suspended for six games for a first offense, and will be banned for life with a second offense. Offenses don’t necessarily have to mean that the accused are found guilty in court, but the league says each case would be judged individually. However, someone who receives a lifetime ban can apply for reinstatement to the league after one year. The policy applies to all league personnel, and appears to be in response to harsh criticism the NFL has received following the announcement that Rice would be suspended for only two games after knocking his then-fiance Janay Palmer unconscious with a punch when they got into a fight inside an elevator in the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey in February.

In a letter to owners, Goodell said of the decision for the two-game suspension for Rice: “We got it wrong.” He went on to write: “Our personal conduct policy has long made clear that domestic violence and sexual assault are unacceptable.” Goodell added that the league must do a better job of addressing domestic violence and sexual assault incidents, and will work to do so.

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and they have no place in the NFL under any circumstances,” Goodell wrote.

Under the policy, all players and other team and league personnel will start with a clean slate. However, it had barely gone into effect before a player already found himself under its microscope. San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested on August 31 on suspicion of domestic violence. Head coach Jim Harbaugh (brother of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh) says that McDonald will play in the 49ers’ season opener at Dallas. General Manager Trent Baalke says the team will handle disciplining McDonald.

Ravens looking to move past lackluster 2013 season

Will have to start without Rice

By Andrew Koch

A disappointing 2013 season that saw the Baltimore Ravens finish 8-8 with a struggling running game and offensive line was followed by an offseason dominated by news of offseason arrests. The highest-profile off-the-field incident will cost the Ravens one of their most important players for two games.

After being arrested for assaulting his now-wife inside an elevator in the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the NFL suspended running back Ray Rice for the first two games of the season. The suspension will go into effect on Aug. 30, and will continue through Sept. 12. That means Rice will miss the Ravens’ opener on Sept. 7 against Cincinnati, along with the Sept. 11 Thursday night game against Pittsburgh. The suspension that was handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has created a firestorm of controversy, raising questions about how seriously the league office takes the issue of domestic violence perpetrated by its players.

Rice wasn’t the only Ravens player to have a run-in with the law. He was one of five players who were arrested between February and July. Less than a week after Rice was arrested, receiver Deonte Thompson was arrested for marijuana possession in Gainesville, Florida. The case was later dismissed. Offensive tackle Jah Reid was arrested and charged with two misdemeanor counts of battery after a fight in a bar in Key West. Like Rice, Reid has been accepted into a pretrial diversion program. Over Memorial Day weekend, rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and being drunk in public after being accused of breaking a window in a cab. That case has been dismissed. On July 12, cornerback Jimmy Smith was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct when Baltimore County Police say he was helping an intoxicated woman inside a bar bathroom in Towson, he refused to comply with officers’ orders and after medics and officers arrived.

The Ravens offense is quickly adapting to the new system that’s being installed by new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Offseason acquisitions running back Justin Forsett and tight end Owen Daniels are helping the offense learn Kubiak’s system, having played under him when they were in Houston with Kubiak as the head coach. The offensive line under coach Luis Castillo has performed well in preseason play, and the running game featuring Rice, Forsett and Bernard Pierce has also looked good.

While the Ravens’ first teams on offense and defense have looked good in the preseason, the games have come with a physical cost. Smith and Rice were both taken out of the game at Dallas with injuries. Rice suffered an injury to his shoulder on Baltimore’s second possession. On the Cowboys’ first possession of the game, Smith went up to make a play on a pass intended for wide receiver Dez Bryant and landed on his chest. He then coughed up blood on the field and in the locker room. After undergoing an MRI, Smith was diagnosed with a bruised chest. His injury is challenging the depth of the Ravens secondary. Cornerbacks Asa Jackson and Lardarius Webb haven’t been practicing because of ankle and back injuries, respectively.

The Ravens will open the season with three straight games against their division rivals (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and at Cleveland on Sept. 21). Baltimore will wrap up Sept. by facing Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers at home on Sept. 28.

Rice Admitted to Pretrial Diversion Program, Apologizes For Fight With Wife

Ravens running back Ray Rice will avoid a trial on aggravated assault charges, and spoke publicly to apologize for the first time since the fight with his then-fianceé (now wife) inside a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

During a press conference at the Ravens facility in Owings Mills on May 23, Rice, accompanied by his wife Janay Palmer, told reporters that he’d “failed miserably.” ESPN reports his voice cracked with emotion as he apologized to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, General Manager Ozzie Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, and the fans that look up to him. Rice says ever since the Valentine’s Day weekend fight with Palmer inside the Revel Casino, he’s been working to make himself a better person.

“One thing that I do know is that I am working every day to be a better father, a better husband, you know, and just a better role model,” Rice said. “We are better parents, we are better lovers, and we are also better friends throughout this situation. I failed miserable, but I wouldn’t call myself a failure because I’m working my way back up.”

Rice spoke for a little over six minutes and did not take any questions from reporters before turning the microphone over to Palmer, who said that she did regret the role she played in the fight. She expressed her love for her husband, and hopes that he’ll continue to show the person he really is to the greater Baltimore community.

On May 20, Rice was accepted into a pretrial diversion program. If he successfully completes the program, the aggravated assault charge handed down by an Atlantic County (New Jersey) grand jury will be dismissed. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office still hasn’t indicated whether or not the league will suspend Rice under the league’s personal conduct policy.