Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice defines “champion” differently two years after video was released of what he calls “the worst decision of my life."
“Winning is big,” he said. “I take that and I cherish it, but if I played and never got another Super Bowl but I helped save some men in the locker room, then I'm a champion.”
Rice may be best known for what he was seen doing on a surveillance video from an Atlantic City hotel rather than anything he’d done on a football field before it. The video showed him knocking his fiancée, Janay Palmer, unconscious with a blow to the face, then dragging her off an elevator.
“It was the worst decision of my life, and I'm going to pay that consequence for the rest of my life,” Rice told News4 for the domestic violence awareness project "Safe at Home." “I have two kids, who I now have to raise my son to grow up to be a man but I also have to protect my daughter from myself, a guy that could potentially be like me in my worst moments.”
Rice said he never dealt with issues before hitting Palmer, and issues came at a young age. The eldest of four siblings, his father was shot and killed when he was very young, and he was raised by his mother.
“Me being the oldest in the house, I had to be the man at a very young age,” he said. “I tell the story that I started paying bills when I was 11 years old. I go to college and I was chasing the dream."
Rice played football at Rutgers, and then, the NFL called. The Baltimore Ravens drafted him in 2008 at the age of 21, and with that came money and fame, which he said compounded his problems, particularly in his relationship with his high school sweetheart, Janay Palmer.
“If you don't deal with issues, a small problem in your household might become a big deal,” Rice said.
Rice was indicted for aggravated assault for the incident on the videotape. Soon after, he reached a plea agreement, which included a program for first-time offenders, which required regular counseling. The case against him was dropped after he completed the program.
Now, Rice speaks out about domestic violence, most recently at a forum on the topic for the Big 12 last month.
“I want my story to be told,” he said. “There's a lot of detail to it, but I want it to be told. I want to help as many people as I can.”
“Domestic violence is a real issue,” Rice said. “It is a real issue. It happens every 12 seconds as we speak. But if you think about it, the conversation wasn't really being had the way it is now because of my video. If I can explain it to young men my worst decision I know that I can save someone.”
Palmer is now Rice’s wife. They live with their daughter and newborn son in Connecticut, not far from where they grew up in New Rochelle, New York.
“First and foremost, I'm a husband, I'm a father, I'm a son,” Rice said. “I was going through life trying to be ‘the man’ instead of trying to be ‘a man.’”
Initially benched for two games in 2014, Rice was suspended indefinitely from football by the NFL after the videotape was made public in September 2014. Later that year he appealed his suspension, and it was lifted, but he hasn’t played since.
“I'm not going to say I don't miss the game,” he said. “I do miss the game. The moments I miss are camaraderie with teammates. But everything I do I want to be genuine, now. I don't want to use this interview or anything like that to get back to playing.”
Rice said setting an example for his kids is most important to him, now, and he knows it's something he will have to work at for the rest of his life.
“I have to make a decision every day that I'm going to be better than I was on tape,” he said.