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NFL Critic Says Ray Rice Deserves A Second Chance


This past February, security cameras in a casino recorded a fight between former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his then fiancee - security camera footage that ended with him giving her a punch that knocked her out cold. The moment was tough to watch, and it ended up costing Ray Rice his job. It also prompted a national conversation about the NFL and domestic violence. Jane McManus is a reporter for ESPN who covered this story extensively, including the slow and clumsy apologies and admissions from Rice and NFL officials. This past week, she published a piece titled "Why Ray Rice Deserves A Second Chance." She joins me now on the line from her home in New York. Welcome to the program, Jane.

JANE MCMANUS: Hi, thanks for having me.

MARTIN: OK, explain your argument. NFL training camps are starting up soon. Are you saying Ray Rice should get a chance to play this next season?

MCMANUS: I'm not necessarily saying that he deserves a second chance on the field, but I think it's important to realize that that punch wasn't the last word in Ray Rice's life and that he's done a lot of work, according to the people who are close to him, to try to move beyond that moment.

MARTIN: OK, so you have been following this. What have you learned? What has happened in his life?

MCMANUS: Well, he has apologized, and he has gone to counseling. He's also completed all of the court-appointed and NFL-mandated training and counseling, and that includes an anger management class through the state of New Jersey. But, more than that, I think he's reached out to people within the domestic violence community to try to learn more about it as a cultural - as a societal issue. This is not something that I'm declaring, but it's according to the people that he's spoken with, the people who've sat down with him and talked to him.

MARTIN: And you're convinced it's not - this is a cynical outlook - but you're convinced it's not just a PR ploy because he was getting a lot of bad publicity - really negative spotlight was on him and, you know, you could suspect that he is just trying change his public persona.

MCMANUS: And that absolutely could be the case. There's no guarantee that that's not happening. I think that - what has to happen is that each of these cases needs to be looked at. In the NFL, right now, you have a lot of players who've gotten second chances and who are currently playing on teams, people who never accepted responsibility for what happened in their lives. And, I think the difference with Ray Rice is that he has, and a lot of domestic violence experts tell me that, you know, it's important not to throw people away and we need to look at what they've done and - can people change? And, of course people can put on the appearance of change without actually doing the work, but people, also, can change. You know, Ray Rice may be somebody who, you know, we may not look at him as a running back anymore, but maybe we look at him as somebody who took his life and changed it and became somebody who could speak knowledgeably on domestic violence and take that message into locker rooms going forward.

MARTIN: You know, there have been other cases of NFL players connected to allegations of domestic abuse. Is the Ray Rice case - was it exceptional because there was this video footage that was so damning, so hard to watch?

MCMANUS: I think that's absolutely the reason why. If you look at a lot of the other cases, those players are playing in the NFL. I'll bring up Greg Hardy, who was found guilty in a bench trial, although those charges were later dropped. He was picked up by the Cowboys after his case, after he was found guilty in that bench trial. And if you read the police report from that night, he threatened to kill the alleged victim in question. He threw her down on a futon covered with guns. If there had been video from that night, would he be playing in the NFL? And I would wager the answer is no. Video has a huge impact on the way that we look at what happened. It was - you know, we saw Ray Rice punch his wife and then not help her up afterwards. Any team that brought him in, even probably for a workout, would then have that video playing in the background in reports about their team.

MARTIN: Jane McManus, she's a reporter for ESPN. Jane, thanks so much.

MCMANUS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.