The Baltimore Ravens terminated running back Ray Rice’s contract Monday after a graphic video emerged of him punching his former fiancée, who is now his wife, in a hotel elevator in Atlantic City in February.
The video raised fresh questions about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of the situation; in July, the NFL suspended Rice for two games.
The Ravens, who had not previously disciplined Rice in any public way, announced Rice’s release on their Twitter account Monday afternoon. The league, which had been widely criticized for not penalizing Rice more strongly, has now indefinitely suspended him.
“Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that based on the new video evidence that became available today, he has imposed an indefinite suspension on Ray Rice,” the NFL said in a statement. Rice will have to apply to be reinstated.
The decisions came just hours after TMZ published the video on its website (Warning: content may be disturbing for some viewers). It showed Rice and Janay Palmer hitting each other one time inside the elevator before Rice knocked Palmer off her feet and into a railing with a punch to her face. Rice then dragged her unconscious body from the elevator.
The NFL says the league never saw the video until Monday. Likewise, the Ravens, before announcing Rice’s release, said they had not seen the new footage until Monday
Previously published video of the incident was taken from a camera outside the elevator and showed only the aftereffects of the altercation. Rice, 27, was charged with felony assault in March, but after Janay Rice declined to testify against her husband, charges were reduced to court-supervised counseling.
The new video of the incident reignited criticism of Goodell and the league’s handling of domestic violence. The commissioner was portrayed as out of touch on the issue, and it came as he was grappling with other explosive issues, including bullying in the locker room, players driving drunk and carrying weapons, and a drug and steroids policy that some considered outdated.
Goodell, who has wide discretion to penalize players for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, was criticized for giving Rice only a two-game suspension. The NFL received hundreds of phone calls in protest, and petitions with tens of thousands of signatures were collected.
After the episode, the Ravens posted this on Twitter: “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.” That post was deleted Monday.
At the end of August, Goodell announced tougher penalties against players who commit domestic violence. In a letter to team owners, he said he took responsibility “both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right.”
Goodell said that in the future, any NFL employee, including nonplayers, would be suspended for six games for a first offense of domestic violence and a minimum of a year for a second offense.
Oklahoma recently gave a season-long suspension to football player who engaged in similar conduct. Freshman running back Joe Mixon was suspended after an alleged assault of a woman at Norman restaurant in late July.
The Sooners suspended Mixon, a prized recruit, for the season. Mixon had been charged with one count of an act resulting in gross injury, a misdemeanor. A tape of the incident shown to reporters in Oklahoma showed Mixon punched the woman, knocking her unconscious and breaking bones in her face.
In August, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione and football coach Bob Stoops issued a joint statement: “As the university has demonstrated in the past, we are committed to winning the right way. As an example to others, OU sets the highest possible standards for its student athletes, coaches and staff.”
The Rice video also triggered questions about what the league knew, and when. A spokesman for the league said Monday that “no one in our office has seen it until today.” An NFL spokesman did not respond to inquiries Monday morning about whether any of the league’s investigators who do not work in the office had previously seen the video.
On Monday, advocates for victims of domestic violence called on Goodell to revisit his treatment of Rice in light of the new video. Within hours, the Ravens and the league acted.
“The Ravens have sent a strong message against domestic violence,” said Judy Harris Kluger, executive director for Sanctuary for Families. “It was impossible to ignore or explain away.”
The football coach at Rutgers, where Rice played in college, called Monday a “sad day for Ray and a sad day for Rutgers.”
Rice played for the Scarlet Knights from 2005-07, setting the school’s season rushing record with 1,794 yards as a sophomore. Kyle Flood was the program’s offensive line coach during those years.
“Ray will always be a part of our family. The video I saw this morning was difficult to watch,” Flood said. “As a husband and as a farther, there’s nothing that could justify what I saw on that video.
“Family is family but at Rutgers we hold ourselves to an extremely high standard and expect a lot out of our player … I think because of those expectations, this is a sad day.”
Rice hasn’t spoken often to the media since his arrest, but on July 31 called his actions “inexcusable” and said this is “something I have to live with the rest of my life.”
He added: “I know that’s not who I am as a man. That’s not who my mom raised me to be. If anybody knows me, they know I was raised by a single parent, and that was my mother. I let her down, I let my wife down, I let my daughter down. I let my wife’s parents down. I let the whole Baltimore community down. I let my teammates down. I let so many people down because of 30 seconds of my life that I know I can’t take back.”
The Star’s Blair Kerkhoff, The New York Times News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this report