BALTIMORE — She stood between two cars beneath an underpass outside of M&T Bank Stadium, but Christina Burke wasn’t hiding early Thursday evening — far from it.
The Bel Air, Maryland, resident and Baltimore Ravens season-ticket holder displayed the Ray Rice jersey she wore not so much as a matter of pride but as a show of her belief in fairness and redemption.
“I still support Ray Rice,” Burke said at a tailgate outside of the stadium. “I just don’t believe one action or mistake should define a person.”
The home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is the Ravens’ first game since Rice was released by the team and then suspended indefinitely by the NFL after video was released Monday of him striking his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino elevator in February. Rice had been serving a two-game suspension for the incident, which was scheduled to end Friday, at the time of the video’s release.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has come under intense fire for his handling of the situation.
A handful of Ravens fans told ESPN.com that they believe Rice was not treated fairly since nothing new about the case emerged this week except the video, which sent shockwaves from Capitol Hill to California.
Sandra Mattocks, a Ravens season-ticket holder, said Rice has been condemned and further punished only because of the public outcry that the video stirred.
“I have a problem with that,” said Mattocks, who lives in Essex, Maryland. “They knew exactly what the facts where when they made [Rice’s initial] punishment. I’m very disappointed with the NFL and the Ravens for their treatment of Ray Rice.”
Burke and Mattocks both took issue with the Ravens abruptly releasing Rice and the NFL suspending him indefinitely since it had long been in the police report that Rice punched Palmer. Mattocks said Rice should have been suspended six games at most since the policy that the NFL enacted after initially punishing Rice mandates a six-game suspension for first-time offenders of domestic abuse.
Burke echoed similar sentiments.
“People were so quick to hang him out to dry,” she said. “People saw the video, but did they get new evidence?”
Bobby Kemp, a longtime season-ticket holder, said he also had a problem with how so many were quick to judge Rice.
“The Man above is the only one who’s perfect,” said Kemp, who lives in Baltimore County.