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Should the Ray Rice video have been aired publicly?

By Tracy Everbach

By now, many of us have seen the video of Ray Rice punching his wife, Janay, in the face and dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator.

The story of the NFL player’s suspension from the league for the act has once again ignited discussion of the all-too-common societal problem of domestic violence. Rice avoided jail time in the assault by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and entering a probation program that required anger-management counseling.

In the journalism world, the debate also spurred ethical discussions. Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark argued that seeing the video is important to the national conversation on domestic abuse and on the NFL’s reaction to it.

In answer to his post , Dr. Meredith Clark, an assistant professor of the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas, countered that publishing and broadcasting the video violates ethical standards. She points to disconnect between the white, male dominated media industry and the voices of women of color.

“Objectifying Janay Rice and recasting her experiences to serve the interests of elite white men who make the decision to publish and repost the video, to paraphrase Collins, means subordinating a black woman’s humanity in the name of journalism,” Meredith Clark wrote.

What are your thoughts? Does airing such a video spark conversation that can lead to change? Or is it further exploiting an already-victimized woman?

We welcome your comments.

14 Responses so far.

  1. Theresa G says:

    Though the video of Ray Rice knocking his wife unconscious is undoubtedly disturbing, I believe it should have been aired publicly in order to raise awareness of situations concerning domestic abuse.

    As a society, we hold our athletes on a high pedestal. But that does not mean they are above the law, the truth, or the consequences for their actions. And as public figures, they should be more conscious of their actions with the knowledge that their mistakes could likely be nationally broadcasted. The recent celebrity nude photo leaks come to mind. If those women could be shamed for their own private pictures being publicized, how would an athlete’s disgusting treatment of his then-fiancee deserve less of a discussion? If Ray Rice had not been known, the video likely wouldn’t have been leaked, and Rice himself would go on with life sans reparation. However, in a way it is fortunate that he is famous. The startling treatment of Janay, on the part of someone who is likely a role model for young men, can prompt the discussion of domestic abuse around the nation. This can be treated as a paradigm to men everywhere.

    I am disappointed in the NFL for their part in this nightmare. Despite their awareness of this event, they tried to cover it up and let Rice scoot by without the necessary consequences. Why should he be given special treatment? He needs to be help responsible for his monstrous actions.

    Dr. Clark maintains that broadcasting the video would be “objectifying Janay Rice,” yet I do not agree with her argument. Ray Rice has already objectified her himself. By addressing the situation, we would be standing up for her and women in abusive situations everywhere. As things are, she cannot escape discussion of the video, and might as well take advantage of the limelight to change the way we view domestic abuse. She has the power to do something about it, yet she has seemed remarkably unwilling to do so. I can only hope that somehow this situation will serve to eliminate similar incidents in the future.

  2. Gregg Morris says:

    Publications with written ethical journalism standards that their staffs follow seriously most likely would have contacted the major characters, including Roger Goddell/NFL, before publishing/broadcasting the video in order to do news stories as thorough as possible. Such organizations would have been interested in getting, as much possible, answers or responses to the questions now being asked publicly and now subject to the latest investigations, such as the internal one by the NFL.

    TMZ, a paparazzi organization, probably has no written guidelines and it obviously released the video because it had what it thought was a major scoop and wasn’t interested in a news story and knew it would create a wave of sensationalism. So, in summary, TMZ wasn’t interested in a news story, it was interested in being credited with a fantastic scoop. Once the feeding frenzy started it’s impossible to ascertain which news organizations followed their ethical guidelines and which didn’t.


  3. Morgan H says:

    The video is very disturbing and uncomfortable to watch; however, the media, national and global attention this video has received is enormous. This video, even though very graphic in nature, applies to the public interest in the sense that Ray Rice’s verbal explanation of the incident does not compare at all to the actual events. I believe that this video will spark a major conversation about domestic abuse that is typically swept under the rug. Personally, if I was Janay, I would want the world to see the type of abuse that I am dealing with and to show other victims that they aren’t alone. Take into consideration the video of Michael Brown lying lifeless in the street in Ferguson Missouri. His family had to and are still dealing with the broadcasting of that video. I do not think that these videos are victimizing the people in them, but allowing the deeper issues float to the surface and be discussed.

    • Gregg Morris says:

      Some news organizations may be acting in the public interest but I bet many are reacting to the prurient interests of their viewers and readers. Regarding Janay’s interests: The ethical and serious journalistic was to do this – my opinion – would have been to contact her before broadcasting, publishing the video. Creating a feeding frenzy or joining a feeding frenzy with the velocity of highly prurient interests does not mean the public interest is being served.

  4. I too have conflicted views about this issue. It is without a doubt a violation of her privacy. I mean, by the end of the video she was unconscious on the floor, completely exposed and helpless.

    But at the same, time if you look at the bigger picture, it is important to raise awareness of this issue and that the NFL was trying to cover up this whole thing. I just don’t think it was necessary to show the entire video.

    It just contradicts this whole “movement”. The idea of this is to empower women and making them stand up for themselves; but what they are doing by showing this video is the exact opposite.

  5. Brooke W says:

    The video is a disturbing one to watch and I cannot imagine the pain which Janay feels having to relive it everyday. It does raise an ethical question of whether the release of the video can be justified through an ethical decision making process. In my opinion, it is a journalist’s duty to report the truth. There was much speculation around the case and by releasing the video, the truth of the altrication was exposed. I think it was essential to show to kick start the dialogue around domestic abuse and for Ray Rice to receive an appropriate repercussion. If, potentially, only a portion of the video could have been aired (or only a photograph) that would have been sufficient. However, I do not think TMZ was in the wrong releasing the video in hopes we will begin to see a change.

  6. Nellie says:

    I think the video should have been aired publicly. While it was horrifying to watch, I believe that made the viewers more emotionally connected to the situation. All too often we hear of athletes getting into trouble, so it is very easy for the public to become numb to these types of issues. Actually seeing what happened sparked something in me that just simply reading an article couldn’t do. I would like to think the same thing happened with the majority of people who watched the video. We can only hope that the decision to air the video will bring awareness to domestic violence and give other victims the courage to seek help.

  7. Sarah Taylor says:

    It is no secret that there are many ways to approach this issue. Whether TMZ considered the ethics of airing the video does not matter as much as the outcome to me. Immanuel Kant’s ethical theory discusses an approach to ethical decision by looking at the outcomes. Accompany Kant’s rule of thought with the utilitarianism principle of journalism ethics and the public airing of the viedo absolutely sparks conversations for change. Furthermore, I believe these conversations are not dominated by white males if you look at the entirety of the digital media scene. White males may have dominated it ten years in a media environment where the video would have been run on the nightly news cast and only commented on by the men sitting in the anchor chairs. But thank you to social media that is not the case. The twitter #whyistayed and #whyIleft made sure that a larger, diverse demographic was apart of the conversation.

    Ten years ago, I think publicly airing the video would have done nothing but suspend Ray Rice for 2 games and exploit his wife’s private life. Replaying that video would have not allowed for a larger conversation. TMZ’s access to the internet world would have never given those abused a reason to speak and twitter would have never given them a platform to be heard.

    Today- in the digital age- the utilitarianism principle of doing the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people and judging a decision based on the outcome are heavily highlighted in this situation. Because of TMZ’s release of the video on the web, the video has been shared and conversation, advocacy, education and a new understanding when it comes to abuse has begun. Not just from the NFL commissioner and the men in the anchor desk, but for anyone who has a twitter, access to the internet and types in #whyIstayed #whyIleft into the search bar.

  8. Elizabeth W. says:

    There is no doubt that Janay Rice is being further victimized in the showing of the entire video. As a journalist, I think the ethical decision here would be to just show certain parts of the video to get the point across. Showing the video does have value- this video being shown can work to help prevent abuse like this from occurring. Harsher punishments in the NFL need to be made for domestic violence.

  9. Barbara Barnett says:

    I have conflicted feelings about this story. To be honest, there is a strong part of me, as a woman, that wants video of ever abuser shown on the Jumbotron in Times Square. I want their abuse exposed, and I want people to stay away from them. I want their pictures at the post office, and I want announcements made in their neighborhoods. Also as a woman, I know that part of the reason for abuse is to hurt and humiliate, and I can understand why Janay Rice feels her private life has been put on public display, and I’m certain I wouldn’t want any part of my marriage, good or bad, televised. As a journalist, I recognize this is a story that involves sports — a major industry in this country, and because the NFL has recognized domestic violence as unacceptable, that in and of itself is a story since, as some sportscasters have noted, there has been a wink-wink, boys will be boys attitude in the past.

    Janay Rice didn’t ask to be part of the story, and I think this kind of exposure happens to many people who are victims/survivors or crime. Police reports become the foundation for news stories, and it is something I struggled with as a reporter myself. Why am I reporting this particular story? What about the people who don’t want their names in the paper? Is this okay simply because it’s public record? Mrs. Rice has spoken out through social media, and that may be one way of giving herself a voice in this news story. Not all crime victims/survivors will want this or take this step.

    There are indeed racial dimensions to this story, including the “brute” stereotype of men and the passive stereotype of women, and I hope the media recognize that in their reporting.

    It is difficult to cover a story of domestic violence, especially when the media define it as abuse and Mrs. Rice defines it as a private bad moment in an otherwise loving marriage. Where I come down on this is that domestic violence is a crime and it needs a serious examination in the media. The question asked so often is, “Why does she stay?” Maybe another question is, “Why does he hit?” The media can do a service here by explaining these dynamics, not just chalking this up to the dysfunction of a single couple.

  10. Robbie Deutsch says:

    I do feel this video should have been aired publicly. Seeing how this entire conflict opened back up once it was aired and the new penalties to Rice have now been assessed, how would the public have really been able to justify these new developments? As a fan of the NFL, I am glad I now can see why Rice lost his job with the Ravens, as well as be indefinitely suspended by the league. People now have a better understanding for the situation and also now know exactly why the NFL just changed its policies on domestic violence charges and how it is being taken far more seriously from here on out.

  11. Cassie says:

    I think that it is unfortunate that people had to see the video to speak out against Ray Rice on this issue. I don’t understand how it took seeing it to understand how awful it is that Ray Rice assaulted his wife. I think the public reaction to this proves that the problem with the multimedia focus in journalism is that people seem to take things less seriously when they don’t see them happen. I am torn on whether nor not the video should have been publicized. On one hand it is proof that the incident occured… but I don’t feel like the video needed to be made available to the public for people to understand what he did.

  12. Alyssa P says:

    I believe that showing the whole video definitely calls to a journalist’s attention the need for an ethical decision making process. The video shows the brutality of domestic violence when clearly Janay Rice has already been through a lot as Meredith Clark notes. In showing the video in its entirety, it seems a bit exploitive to me. However, showing a short clip of the altercation and maybe a few stills would be more of a happy medium. There certainly is something to be said about utilitarianism and this situation leading to other victims of domestic abuse speaking out and finding true empowerment.

  13. When I raised this question to my Mass Media/Pop Culture students, the issue prompted a much heated debate. We placed this in the context patriarchal dominated institutions, specifically the culture of violence and the hyper masculine culture of football. Showing the video only, in my opinion as a feminist/critical race scholar/academic regrettably re-victimizes the person who lacks the power. Yes, it May shed light on the problem of domestic violence, that said, the viral circulation of this video without her consent only underscores the institutional devaluation of women of color in American society.

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