The Baltimore Ravens are rallying around Ray Rice after his two-game suspension for allegedly knocking his fiancée unconscious in an alteration at a Atlantic City casino in February.
Many people felt the two-game suspension was far too light.
Instead of ignoring the uproar and letting the incident fade from the public memory, the Ravens, through their own website, are pushing a redemption narrative.
Team senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Bryne wrote an article after the suspension was announced called, “Bryne Identity: I Like Ray Rice.”
He argues that Rice is a good person who is overcoming “a moment in his life he wishes he could take back.”
It’s an unusual PR strategy. The Ravens are actively participating in a discussion about whether or not Ray Rice is a good human being — an argument that they stand zero chance of winning, and which will only bring more attention to the original incident.
The letter begins:
“If you had asked me on Feb. 1 to name five Ravens players I would never expect to receive a call at 3:00 in the morning about doing something illegal, Ray Rice would be on the list — EASILY.
“I would have said: ‘Ray’s a good guy. He’s smart. He might be the most popular person in our building. Need help with a community event or a player to lift a person in need, especially a child? Ray is one of the guys who says, “Yes, I’ll help”‘
“I liked Ray Rice a lot then. I like Ray Rice a lot today.
“Clearly Ray has been scrutinized. He has been reviewed in a court of law and in the court of public opinion. The NFL punished Ray Rice with a two-game suspension and a third game check. He will lose 3/17 of his salary.
“After a thorough legal review, a New Jersey judge placed Rice in a diversionary program that will allow his record of charges to be expunged if he maintains his good citizenship for a year.
“Like many of us, Ray Rice had a moment in his life he wishes he could take back.
“But, he can’t. He got himself into that situation, and he’s paying for it. And, he deserves this public and private flogging and the punishments that have come with it. Ray knows that better than anyone.”
The final section of Bryce’s consists of two anecdotes about how Rice is a good guy.
It has an us-against-the-world vibe:
“‘What I attempt to do with this blog is lift the veil on the Ravens, try to share with fans some of what takes place that media doesn’t see or care to cover. Here are two stories about Rice since the incident with his now wife Janay. I share them not to try to get sympathy for Rice. I share them to let you see what we see.
“Two weeks after the casino incident, I came to our Under Armour Performance Center for a racquetball game against former Raven Bennie Thompson. It was a bleak, cloudy Saturday morning. I cut through the mostly dark weight room on my way to the court.
“I heard the clang of a weight in the corner. When I looked to see who was there, it was Ray. ‘What are you doing here?’ I asked him and joked that he could turn on the lights.
“A subdued Rice said: ‘I’ve been trying to come in the building and work out when no one is here. I’m not sure anyone wants to see me. I’m so sorry, and I’m embarrassed. And, I don’t want to make any of the women feel uncomfortable.’
The other anecdote is about Rice crying when a team executive told him to continue with his anti-bullying campaign.
The team website also published an article about fans giving him a standing ovation at training camp. It includes quotes from fans such as, “I’m wearing his jersey because he is still a good man. I’m happy to support Ray Rice, just like he has always supported our community.”
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