I needed to take a few days to digest Ray Rice's Friday press conference. I didn't want to write something out of a knee-jerk reaction, I wanted to do my best to put words to my thoughts of the Ray Rice I know both on and off the football field.
Judging by the court of public opinion as seen on social media, I'm in the minority here.
However, I feel that I need to write this because to me, Rice is more than just a running back for the Baltimore Ravens — he's a genuine friend I met five years ago and has been someone I've maintained a good relationship with away from the confines of the locker room.
As I'm sure it did to you, this whole situation caught me off guard because Rice is the last person I ever thought would be involved in a domestic situation — or arrested for that matter. I understand that Rice has established himself as a goodwill ambassador throughout the community in six years, but that can't excuse his actions that led to the arrest of both he and his now-wife during an altercation inside an Atlantic City casino in February.
This was 30 seconds of Rice and his wife's private life that were made public. This was also the 30 seconds that could probably be classified as the worst of their relationship that goes back to high school. This was 30 seconds that was only made public because of Rice's celebrity, and was sold to TMZ for an alleged $10,000 payday and that same employee is apparently no longer employed by Revel Casino.
Yes, Rice's press conference was extremely awkward, but I'm fine with that.
No matter how many times he played that press conference in his head, Rice was in an uphill battle. Actually facing the media, having members of his family and those of his wife's in addition to 15 cameras broadcasting his apology and personal life across the country, it had to be an out-of-body experience.
Rice has faced criticism for fumbling the football, but now also faced it for fumbling with his phone during his apology. This press conference was awkward because keeping talking points on his phone was Rice's way of making sure he could speak from the heart and not through a lawyer-generated statement.
The general consensus since Friday has been that many were upset that Rice never apologized publicly to his wife. Much like the awkwardness, I'm also fine with that.
This press conference was about addressing Rice's employers, both the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens. In addition, this would also reach the fan base and judging by their acceptance, Rice's sponsors as well. What spoke volumes to me was that his wife, Janay, was next to his side during all of this.
Both Ray and Janay have addressed this personal issue ... personally. Perhaps apologizing was so far in the rear view mirror based off of their counseling and personal lives at home that it was an afterthought. Yes, I'm someone who would have still liked to see him address her during the press conference, but I'm not going to hold him to the fire because we don't know what has happened inside their counseling or inside their home.
Rice's relationship is none of our business and the thing that is often overlooked is what matters the most — the well being of their daughter, Rayven. As long as Rice and his wife, Janay, believe they're providing the best environment for their child's upbringing, I'm fine with them fixing their relationship.
I don't condone the actions of Rice and his wife, but I also understand that no one is perfect. I can't imagine the worst 30 seconds of my relationship being documented for the world to see and judge me by. It's a losing proposition for not only the couple, but their child.
It'll be an uphill climb for Rice to repair his image, but given the person I know him to be, he'll prevail.
I understand that many disagree with my stance for forgiving Rice, but there's no way I could even possibly convince myself to think differently. I've seen Rice change and impact people's lives dozens of times in our private gatherings and charitable events. Rice has only ever been a phone call away and will likely drop everything to help someone in need. I've seen him bring tears of joy to the faces of those in need and genuinely take an interest in someones life — in addition to keeping in contact with them.
He wasn't a champion in the community to improve his image, he was a champion in the community because it was truly his calling and something he believed was part of his job as a human being.
Rice has given me his credit card to charge large amounts for donations. He has presented children with Super Bowl rings out of the goodness of his heart and has done so many more things that he's always asked me to not write about because he didn't want to make the story about himself.
Of course, the image of Janay being pulled from the elevator will be a difficult one to shake from my mind, but it's also diluted because I know the people involved in that altercation had a lapse of judgement and it's not a testament to their true character. I don't condone either of their actions, but I will support them in their rehabilitation process for their image and marriage because I truly believe the person being scrutinized is one of the most loving and caring people I've ever met.
In the times I've spoken to Rice since this mess, I get the impression that he's blocking out the outside distractions to focus on bettering himself both on and off the field. Unfortunately, Rice probably experienced even more criticism than normal simply due to a poor season in 2013, but he's been nothing but a workhorse to improve himself in his profession. He's down to 205 pounds, he doesn't seem to have an ounce of body fat on him. There isn't a person who will question his work ethic this offseason to best prepare himself for what will be his most important season in his career.
I'll continue to support Ray Rice the football player and Ray Rice my friend. If anyone can overcome this shortcoming in life, it's him and I know he will. This may not be the most popular opinion in Baltimore and around the country, but I'm also not judging from 30 seconds of film. I'm judging from an entire body of work with countless hours of improving the lives of others and utter unselfishness.
Baltimore needs Ray Rice on the field and in the community; now is a time that Ray Rice also needs Baltimore.
After all he's done, to ask for forgiveness to the level of allowing him to try to rebuild his goodwill in his home and community doesn't seem like a tall order. During situations like this, people don't need your criticism, they need your support.