By posting a video of Ray Rice violently punching Janay Rice, his fiancee then (nee Palmer) and now his wife, TMZ accomplished something months of outrage could not—getting the Baltimore Ravens' running back kicked off the team and suspended from football.
And it's turned out to be a debacle for the National Football League's brand, since reports are swirling that it may have had access to the same video for months but only gave Rice a lenient penalty. How much damage has been done to the business of the NFL—a sports/entertainment and media giant—will be worth watching in the coming days.
The domestic violence incident initially made headlines on Feb. 19, when TMZ posted a first video showing Rice dragging an unconscious Janay out of an elevator on Feb. 15. After that clip surfaced, the Ravens tweeted that Janay, who married Rice after the attack, "deeply regrets the role she played on the night of the incident."
On July 24, the league levied a two-game suspension and a $58,823 fine.
Many were up in arms about the initial ruling, pointing out that players got stronger penalties, such as a year suspension for smoking weed, while domestic abuse was treated like a minor incident. After the much more violent clip surfaced for the first time today, sites like Jezebel called for a boycott of the NFL. And Rice trended on Twitter as scores of people expressed dismay that the pro football league didn't come down on him hard enough.
You mean @TMZ_Sports could obtain damning evidence against Ray Rice that legal system, NFL couldn't – or they chose to overlook?
— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) September 8, 2014
Roger Goodell's position as Commissioner of the NFL is no longer tenable. Whether he saw the #RayRice video or he did not, he failed.
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) September 8, 2014
That man should be thrown out the the nfl and thrown into jail. Shame on those deciding his punishment. Smh
— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) September 8, 2014
NFL players want to stand up for some shat, don't play against Ravens until Rice is suspended indefinitely. What if that was YOUR daughter?
— LeCharles Bentley (@LeCharlesBent65) September 8, 2014
The NFL should have zero tolerance for domestic violence. There is never a reason for any man to be violent towards any woman.
— Chris Harris (@ChrisHarrisJr) September 8, 2014
In August, NFL commissioner Robert Goodell admitted the league "(fell) short of its goals" when it addressed the Rice situation. The NFL then changed its policy so that any first case of domestic violence would result in an immediate six-game suspension. Another incident would be subject to a ban from the NFL, and the player would not be able to apply for reinstatement until after a year. However, Rice's punishment was not amended at the time.
TMZ's second video appears to have prevented the incident from being swept under the rug.
While both the NFL and the Ravens said they did not see the new clip when they made their initial judgments, Deadspin pointed out that statements previously made to numerous reporters, including MMQB's Peter King, contradict their claims.
The Ravens told NFL.com columnist Judy Battista that it was told a "softer" version of events before today, which is why it still supported Rice. The team also deleted the aforementioned Janay Rice apology tweet.