SBD/August 1, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

U.S. Sens. Implore NFL, Ravens To Revisit Ray Rice Discipline; RB Shows Contrition In Apology

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Rice seemed genuine to many in his apology Thursday
Three U.S. Senators sent a letter to the Ravens and the NFL on Thursday "criticizing what they called 'plainly inadequate' punishment" for RB Ray Rice in the wake of his February domestic violence arrest, according to Fritze and Campbell of the Baltimore SUN. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) "implored the league and the Ravens to revisit their sanctions against Rice." The senators also called on the league to "create a program to deal with domestic violence in a way similar to its treatment of drug offenses by players." Blumenthal said Rice's punishment was "a mockery of what should have been done." Ravens Senior VP/Public & Community Relations Kevin Byrne said the team is "aware of the letter." NFL Senior VP/Communications Greg Aiello said of the letter, "We look forward to responding." Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) also "criticized the punishment late Thursday" (Baltimore SUN, 8/1).

STARTS AT THE TOP: CBS Sports Radio's John Feinstein wrote NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "will have to come out of hiding this weekend in Canton" during the Pro Football HOF induction events. Maybe, "given a week to think about how badly he dropped the ball, Goodell will at least announce that the NFL plans to do more to educate players and spouses about domestic violence and will spend some of its billions of dollars on working to help those who have been abused." Feinstein: "That won’t wipe out the mistake Goodell made on the Rice ruling but it would be a step in the right direction" (RADIO.CBSSPORTS.com, 7/31). In Illinois, Barry Rozner writes, "Tone deaf doesn't do justice to describing the inability of the NFL, the Ravens, Rice and -- most of all" -- Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who said the franchise appreciated the attention, to "understand that NFL players beating up women is a horrific, life-changing event that is all too prevalent in their league." The "lasting impression that Roger Goodell and Co. leave is that they really aren't concerned, Harbaugh least of all" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 8/1). ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley wrote under the header, "Five Questions For Roger Goodell" (ESPN.com, 7/31). ESPN’s J.A. Adande said, “We still need to hear from Roger Goodell. He still needs to face the media and explain why he felt a two-game suspension was sufficient for his actions when clearly the public and the NFL fans don’t feel the same way” (“Around the Horn,” ESPN, 7/31). ESPN’s Cari Champion: “I have heard enough from Ray Rice. I would like to hear what Roger Goodell has to say” (“First Take,” ESPN2, 8/1).

SAYING SORRY: ESPN.com's Hensley wrote Rice, who on Thursday spoke publicly for the first time in two months, showed that he "finally understood the weight of his actions," in "stark contrast" to his news conference in May. Rice in his Thursday apology "delivered the correct message, one the NFL failed to do last week with the two-game suspension, by not only apologizing to his wife, Janay Palmer, but also expressing a desire to become an advocate for domestic-violence causes." Rice was "compelling in his contrition." But before anyone "pats Rice on the back, this is what he should have said the first time." His 17-minute news conference Thursday "hit the right tones," but Rice's "biggest misstep was not talking about what happened in the elevator." Hensley: "The only way Rice can move forward from this incident and show he's truly sincere is through his actions. It's not by his words. It's not by a hefty donation" (ESPN.com, 7/31). In Baltimore, Mike Preston writes it is now time to "let the healing process begin." Preston: "I had already moved on." But the NFL and the Ravens' PR crew in recent weeks had "unintentionally made Rice public enemy No. 1." The "old Rice surfaced Thursday" during his news conference. He was "humble." Preston: "Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you come back up again. ... Now, the Ravens just need to be quiet" (Baltimore SUN, 8/1). However, ESPN’s Keith Olbermann said, “Rice displayed absolutely no credibility. He made the classic, the worst (and) the most self-destructive mistake. The one made by nearly all public figures whose reputations do not survive after they do bad things. He never said what happened." Olbermann: "(He) said time after time after time that he would, ‘Own it.’ But he never described ‘it.’ To own it, you have to say what it is. This is called an allocution." Olbermann added, "It is in the law that when you plead guilty to something, a plea deal, you have to recount what it is you did -- an excruciating, sometimes painful detail in court, on the record so everybody knows. … He needed to go detail-by-detail what happened in the elevator, ugly as it might have been, reflecting on him poorly if it did, or on his wife. Even if he mistakenly believed it could hurt him legally” (“Olbermann,” ESPN2, 7/31).

REPUTATION REPAIR? ESPNW's Sarah Spain wrote Rice's statements Thursday "seemed genuine and contrite." Instead of "continuing to use softer, more benign terms like 'incident' or 'situation,' Rice finally called it what it was" by referencing "domestic violence." It was "an indication that he's willing to finally own his actions." Rice has a chance going forward to "make this incident a piece of his story, and not the headline" (ESPNW.com, 7/31). In Miami, David Neal writes Rice "occasionally came off as self-centered," but "seemed seriously ashamed of the actions toward his wife" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/1). USA Today's Maggie Hendricks said, “He said all the right things and I think he has all the right thoughts. My biggest concern is him following through on this. If he does follow through, it can really do some great things” (“Today,” NBC, 8/1). In Baltimore, Jeff Zrebiec writes Rice's reputation around the NFL and in Baltimore, where he was "considered one of the city's most charitable and popular sports figures, has taken a major hit." Though Rice has "been cheered during training camp practices, plenty of other fans have thrown away his jersey and vowed not to root for him again." N.Y.-based 5W Public Relations Senior VP & Head of Crisis Communications Juda Engelmayer said, "People won't forget about it. People will keep it in the back of their minds. If he missteps again, it will have grave repercussions" (Baltimore SUN, 8/1). CBS Sports Network’s Allie LaForce, on Rice's apology: “I'm buying it. I really am. I don't think that one verbal apology makes up for everything that you did, but I am glad that he addressed the public the way he did. I saw emotion. I saw sentiment from him. I felt like he really meant it. I want to see his actions speak louder than his words, though” (“Lead Off,” CBSSN, 7/31). ESPN’s Champion said, Rice in his press conference "went on to say that he and his wife will be part of a campaign to stop domestic abuse, but first they need to work on themselves. They need counseling because they can't fix anyone else unless they fix themselves." Champion: "I thought that was huge when he made that statement. … I thought that he went through everything he thought people were comfortable with (in) that very first press conference they had. He took ownership. For me, I thought there was validation there” (“First Take,” ESPN2, 8/1).
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