And the insular culture of the NFL raises its ugly head once again as the trolls clamber out from under their bridges to defend the indefensible actions of one of their own. This time, they’re claiming the real victim in the Ray Rice scandal is not Rice’s wife Janay, but abuser himself. Here’s what a few of these clowns told ESPN:
“He told the truth. This is a public lynching of Ray.”
A friend of Rice told CNN’s “OutFront With Erin Burnett” that Rice hasn’t hidden from the ugly truth.
“He told everyone that asked, that was in a position of authority — from the NFL to his bosses with the Ravens — what he did,” said Craig Carton, who is a radio co-host with former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason. “He took ownership of the despicable act and has tried to make it right.”
I can’t speak to Rice’s honesty, and frankly, I don’t give a shit. Being honest about a bad thing you did doesn’t make that bad thing you did any less bad. It doesn’t mean you get to walk away without paying the price. It doesn’t mean you get to keep your multimillion dollar job in the public entertainment business.
Ray Rice does not have a right to play football. He’s not constitutionally guaranteed a position on an NFL team. He is effectively a product packaged and marketed by the Baltimore Ravens and, in a more general sense, the NFL. Rice’s firing isn’t any more a “lynching” than The War Z being delisted from Steam for being an abjectly shit-tastic game. We, the public, have decided we’d rather not trade in damaged goods like Ray Rice; that we aren’t going to fork over our hard-earned money to a wife-beating misogynist lowlife fuck, however honest about it he may be. He’s simply been taken off the market, like any poorly performing product would.
But, where football is concerned, the public are not merely consumers. The other side of this issue, rarely mentioned by sports journalists who are either hopelessly entwined in the politics of the NFL themselves or fawning fanboys still viewing the game through rose-colored glasses, is one the NFL would rather not talk about at all.
And that would be funding.
For those of a younger generation (or for those who simply don’t know much NFL history), the Baltimore Ravens were not always so. Prior to 1996, they were the Cleveland Browns. The Cleveland Browns that exist today are a “new” franchise reactivated in 1999, three years after the previous owner, Art Modell, packed up his team and moved them to the home city of the erstwhile Baltimore Colts (which were moved to Indianapolis in 1984).
Modell didn’t move his team for want of a change in scenery. Baltimore, desperate to have a football franchise once again representing their city, pitched $200 million in taxpayer funds towards the construction of M&T Bank Stadium, where, according to author Steve Almond in Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto, the newly-franchised Ravens would play rent-free for thirty seasons and keep every dime gouged from “tickets, parking, naming rights, concessions, and the sale of 108 luxury boxes and 7,500 club seats” (p. 79). The team’s $15 million dollar training facility and the cost of their move from Cleveland to Baltimore were covered by these proceeds.
The Ravens don’t play in Baltimore out of the goodness of their heart. They play there because the people of Baltimore footed the bill, because they paid for the stadium and handed over any and all claim to the majority of the profits made therein. Because they turned a $163 million dollar team into a $600 million dollar (p. 80) team practically overnight.
If that doesn’t empower the public to affect change within the Ravens’ organization, I don’t know what the fuck does.