A bevy of Baltimore fans stood up for Ray Rice, protesting what they perceive as an unfair additional suspension and his release from the team after the video of him punching his then-fiancee went public, at Thursday night’s Ravens-Steelers game by wearing the disgraced running back’s jersey.
Before the game at M&T Bank Stadium, the first played by the Ravens after TMZ’s release of the elevator video showing Rice slugging his then girlfriend, the comments supporting Rice came fast and, at times, furious. Christina Burke, a season-ticket holder wearing a Ray Rice jersey, explained to ESPN: “I still support Ray Rice. I just don’t believe one action or mistake should define a person.”
Sandra Mattocks, another season-ticket holder, remarked on Rice’s punishment: “I have a problem with that. They knew exactly what the facts were when they made [Rice’s initial] punishment. I’m very disappointed with the NFL and the Ravens for their treatment of Ray Rice.” She added that the suspension of Rice should have been limited to six games, as the NFL recently instituted a six-game suspension for first-time offenders of domestic abuse.
Maria Pirovolikos, who said her boyfriend owns a Rice jersey, added:
I think whatever happened in that elevator happened in February and should have been done in February. I’ve met the guy. He’s such a sweet guy. He never said no when I asked for pictures or an autograph or anything. And it’s their business. His wife obviously forgave him, why can’t we? They’re both to blame. She put her hands on him. It’s not okay for women to hit men, it’s not okay for men to hit women. I don’t think what he did was right, but you know what, it happens every day. They were drunk. They’re both to blame. And I think what he should of gotten is like what everyone else got — a slap on the hand and six games.
Paul Kilduff tried to cover “Ray R” on the back of his shirt with duct tape so it read “Be Nice,” but the tape wouldn’t hold, so he left it off, telling ESPN, “Everybody deserves a second chance.” That particular sentiment seemed to be common among some fans.
Some fans were irate at those supporting Rice; one female fan yelled at a man wearing Rice’ s jersey, “You support a wife-beater!”
Yet some women identifying themselves as survivors of domestic abuse were supporting Rice.
LaTonya Jones, who immediately left her husband when he hit her but was still wearing a Rice jersey, told USA Today:
I’m keeping my jersey. I’m not going to trade it in. I don’t agree with how they went from a two-game suspension to ending this man’s career. This is someone’s livelihood. He has a family. I don’t condone fighting because I don’t think anybody should punch anybody, but they should not have took that man’s job away. We shouldn’t be involved in their personal life. I’m sure there are some players on that team today and they’re still playing and just because they weren’t filmed, they can still play and he can’t. It’s not right.
The NFL originally gave Rice a two-game suspension, but once TMZ released the video online, the suspension transformed into an indefinite ban.
Near one entrance, a “Ray Rice Jersey Exchange” was being advertised that was aimed at “particularly families, women and children” who wanted to trade Rice’s jersey for one of another Ravens player.
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