Ravens fans flock to exchange Ray Rice jerseys as criticism of NFL swirls
More than 7,000 fans on Saturday exchanged their Ray Rice jerseys for those of other players during a two-day event at the M&T Bank Stadium.
The exchange took place a day after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he would not resign over his handling of the Ray Rice affair and a league sponsor, Crest, to players during the league’s October Breast Cancer Awareness activities.
Also on Friday, ESPN’s released an extensive and potentially damaging report into Goodell’s handling of the Rice case.
“It’s clearly an unusual time for the franchise,” a team spokesman, Kevin Byrne, said at the jersey exchange on Saturday. “I think the one thing that we’ve tried to be, historically, is that we’ve been transparent. So this is new territory for us. We’re learning as we go.”
Rice was cut by the Ravens and last week, after the release of a video which showed him punching his then fiancee in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February, knocking her unconscious.
The running back had been banned for a widely criticised two games, after the release of a video which showed him dragging Janay Palmer – who is now his wife – from the elevator. .
Press criticism of the NFL’s handling of the case has dogged the league, leading on Friday to commissioner Roger Goodell giving at which he said: “Unfortunately, over the past several weeks, we have seen all too much of the NFL doing wrong. That starts with me.”
Goodell, who had already asked the former FBI director Robert Mueller to conduct an investigation into the NFL’s handling of the case, announced plans to “implement new personal conduct policies” and to set up “a conduct committee to review these new rules in the months and years to come”.
Asked if he would resign, in light of the Rice case and others involving players and domestic violence, Goodell said he was confident he retained the support of the NFL’s 32 team owners and its major sponsors.
Baltimore handed out 5,595 new jerseys before running out before midday on Saturday, then issued more than 2,400 vouchers for fans to pick up their jerseys once new shipments arrive in October. Byrne said the Ravens had spent “six figures” on the trade-in, though he declined to disclose an exact figure.
“We anticipated over the two days getting about 5,000 people, so we got about 2,000 more,” he said. “We just felt it was the right thing to do, and that’s why we did it.”
Last Thursday, when the Ravens defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-6 in their first game since the release of the second Rice video, a number of fans pointedly wore their Rice jerseys as an expression of support for a player who remains popular in the city.
Approximately 15% of those who showed up at the stadium on Saturday had their jerseys rejected because either they were not officially licensed by the NFL or hadn’t been available through the team’s online or stadium store, the team said.
The Ravens spokesman said the jerseys collected by the team would be given to companies that deal in scrap materials.
“The NFL licensed jerseys are not recyclable because of certain materials in parts of the jersey, so what we’re going to do is offer them to companies who deal in scrap,” Byrne said. “We’re not getting paid for it. We’ll just give it to them, and they can do with it as they please.”