The Root: 7 (Outrageous) Details from Janay Rice's ESPN Tell-All Interview


Janet Rice with husband former Raven's running back Ray Rice.

“What the hell is Janay Palmer thinking?”

It was the question asked by nearly everyone who saw “that video,” the one that clearly showed Palmer’s then-fiance, former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, knocking her unconscious on an elevator, then dragging her limp body off it. She’d stayed with Rice after that, married him even. And she publicly apologized at a press conference and then publicly defended him when he was dropped by his team and indefinitely suspended by the NFL.

For domestic violence survivors it was textbook behavior. For those who had never been abused, it was baffling. Was she doing it for the money? Did she grow up in an abusive home and that this was normal? Was she a “classic victim” of domestic violence? How will she explain staying to her daughter someday?

These were just the start of the questions, and finally Janay Rice has publicly answered them (and more) in an interview with ESPN’s Jemele Hill, which was published on Nov. 28, preceding a much-hyped two-part TV interview with Today’s Matt Lauer, which airs Monday and Tuesday mornings this week.

There is no question about the timing of these print and TV interviews. On Friday, Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension from the NFL was overturned, making him eligible to play again. Rice—and his wife—are on a de facto apology tour to clean up Rice’s image and make him less of a PR nightmare to potentially interested NFL teams.

Janay Rice’s account to Hill doesn’t quite do the job in this sense, though she does try hard—too hard even. Many parts of her interview come across as too sanitized, too “handled” by a crisis manager that taught Janay Rice how to spin a story instead of telling it plain.

Janay Rice earnestly talks about her husband’s community service and the amount of counseling they received, She conveniently doesn’t recall what they fought over on the night that she was knocked out and says she was completely uninjured after receiving that blow to the face that left her unconscious. In fact, Janay Rice says she felt, “perfectly fine.” She might as well have said, “See my husband’s not a bad person, the punch didn’t even hurt.”

But even the neat version of Janay Rice’s story can’t cover up what she ultimately is: a domestic violence victim--though she doesn’t consider herself one--blaming herself and defending her abuser. She repeatedly talks about her bad attitude on the day she was knocked unconscious. She describes how she agitated Ray Rice by reaching for his phone and that’s why he spit on her, as if that is a reasonable response. She claims she’s never experienced domestic violence before (or since), but it took only hours for her to forgive her man, who she also never considered leaving.

Here are the top revelations from Janay Rice’s ESPN interview:

She doesn’t remember much.

Janay Rice: “We got into the elevator and what happened inside is still foggy to me. The only thing I know—and I can't even say I "remember" because I only know from what Ray has told me—is that I slapped him again and then he hit me. I remember nothing else from inside the elevator.

“The next thing I do recall is being in the casino lobby, surrounded by cops .... The cops tried to tell me what happened and I refused to believe them .... There were no marks on my face or body, and I felt perfectly fine.”

She forgave him the next day.

“Ray accepted responsibility from the moment we left the police station .... At first, I was very angry, and I didn’t know what to say. This came out of nowhere. Nothing like this had ever happened before. I knew it wasn’t him.

“But as angry as I was, I knew it was something that we could move on from because I know Ray. I thought about our daughter. When she comes in the room, it’s like nothing is going on. We knew it was definitely going to take work, and we knew we had to be by each other’s side. I just needed to get away from him for a little while and spend a few hours taking my space to get my thoughts together.”

She never thought twice about marrying Ray Rice.

“We were married March 28, the day after he was indicted for aggravated assault. We didn’t choose that day because of the indictment. It just happened to be a Friday and a time when our families could attend our wedding without having to interrupt their work schedules. I didn’t understand why that was suspicious to some people. We’d been together seven years and had been engaged for two. What happened that night wasn’t going to change the fact that we were going to get married.

“If anyone knows me they know, I never have and never will be with Ray because of what he can do for me. I stuck with Ray because I truly love him.”


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Everyone Is Asking the Wrong Questions About the Ray Rice Video

Ray Rice and his fiancee, Janay Palmer

“PSA of the day ... If you spit in a man’s face, you deserve to get knocked out. Man, woman or child. Period!”

This was a friend’s Facebook status on the day the news broke that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiancee, Janay Palmer, had both been charged with simple assault after they were involved in a domestic dispute while visiting an Atlantic City casino over Valentine’s Day weekend. Rumor had it that Palmer had spit on Rice, and Rice had reacted. To what degree he reacted was anyone’s guess, at that time. Rice’s lawyer initially—and in hindsight, bafflingly—described the event as a “very minor physical altercation,” as if there were some way for a couple to lay hands on each other that wasn’t bad.

Good ole TMZ came through with footage of the aftermath to that dispute. “Very minor”? Hardly. Grainy video showed Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee from the elevator and discarding her facedown on a carpeted hallway. He seems not to want to be bothered, and even more so when he is approached by hotel security. As the woman comes to, he drags her around some more, seemingly annoyed. The first thing I wondered is, what happened to her?

Police supposedly are in possession of a video that shows Rice allegedly delivering the blow that knocked his fiancee out cold.

I’ve been following this story for days to find out what happened to Palmer and how she’s doing. No one seems to care much about her, despite us all being under the impression that her man—and father of her child—played Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out on her and then dragged her across a dirty elevator floor and into a hallway as if she were trash. I mean, the man is a professional athlete. He cared so little that he couldn’t even pick her up. The only update came from a Ravens spokesman, who said the couple “returned home together after being detained.”

Really? Is that the best place for a woman who allegedly just got knocked out by her man? A woman doesn’t just bounce back from that like nothing happened. Who is going to nurse her back to health and make sure she’s OK? Him?!

In the aftermath, all the talk in the news was about whether Rice will get to keep his job with the Ravens and how much it will cost the team to let him go. Oh, and there were some who were minimizing the issue. The Baltimore Ravens’ general manager called the allegations “concerning” and said it “doesn’t look good.” You think?

On social media, there were plenty of statements like those from my Facebook friend justifying why it’s OK for a man to hit a woman or wondering what he said to get spit on, which in turn made him punch. Everyone was talking about this couple as though they were avatars, and someone else was in control of them and they were not responsible for their own actions.

It doesn’t matter what he said. She shouldn’t have spit on him. And while it’s profoundly disrespectful, it’s not an excuse to knock your fiancee out cold and drag her across a floor. What is this an excuse for, though? For this couple to part ways.


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