Kevin Byrne likes Ray Rice.
The Baltimore Ravens' Senior Vice President of Public & Community Relations wants you to know that.
Rice "is a good guy," Byrne wrote on his blog at the team's official site, who "has been scrutinized" and "reviewed" for "a mistake" he made. Rice had "a moment" that he "wishes he could take back."
Byrne pointed out that he, owner Steve Bisciotti, president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome are all parents. "We know what it is to support a child after a mistake," Byrne wrote, and "We know turning your back on a loved one in a time of need is not what families do."
The Ravens aren't turning their back on Rice. Just the opposite, in fact. With every blog post, every camp update, every tweet, they seem to downplay the crime of which he's accused. From owner to digital-media intern, every member of the Ravens organization is going to the mat for their favorite son.
Rice, though, is not their son. He's a 27-year-old man, a 5'8", 206-pound ball of muscle, fully capable of owning up to the horrific thing he's accused of doing.
For the record, again: he's accused of punching his then-fiancee, now-wife's lights out in a casino bar full of horrified witnesses, then dragging her unconscious body through the attached hotel. Stomach-turning video of him lugging her out of an elevator was leaked to TMZ.com, where the entire Internet saw it.
The Ravens collectively refuse to recognize the monstrosity of this act.
When the suspension came down, head coach John Harbaugh said it was "not a big deal," per NFL.com, and he "stands behind" Rice, who he declared "a heck of a guy." Incredibly, Harbaugh said the whole mess was "good for kids" to learn how consequences work.
Byrne's job is to keep club officials from saying things like that, but everyone drawing a Ravens paycheck has circled the wagons.
Byrne even shared an anecdote about Rice "tearing up" when a bullying expert said Rice should continue his anti-bullying campaign. The expert purportedly signed off on Rice's alleged abusive behavior, declaring it "not bullying" because "a bully intends to harm."
When someone punches their partner in the face hard enough to knock them out cold and is subsequently charged with felony aggravated assault, it's risible to say the puncher meant no harm by it.
Byrne also relayed this private, early-morning exchange with Rice in a darkened weight room:
I heard the clang of a weight in the corner. When I looked to see who was there, it was Ray. "What are you doing here?" I asked him and joked that he could turn on the lights.
A subdued Rice said: "I've been trying to come in the building and work out when no one is here. I'm not sure anyone wants to see me. I'm so sorry, and I'm embarrassed. And, I don't want to make any of the women feel uncomfortable."
Rice didn't default on a car loan. He didn't walk out of a grocery store with some crab legs. We don't know exactly what he did do—but if the police charges, witness statements and video evidence line up, he committed a horrifying, repugnant, violent crime that deserves zero sympathy.
Rice does not get a cookie for being "sorry" or "embarrassed." He is not brave or noble, he is not the victim of circumstance, and he certainly shouldn't be parading in front of adoring fans, soaking up cheers and pounding his chest in gratitude.
Yet there Rice was, and his team was there behind him.
If Byrne has any questions about how the organization's unconditional defense of Rice looks to the rest of the world, he need only search Twitter for "Ravens PR," which at the time of this writing produced an extensive string of Tweets like these:
In a modern corporate America deeply lacking transparency and responsibility, the Ravens' unilateral support of Rice is, in a dark and twisted way, almost admirable.
It proves that in Baltimore, the usual football coachspeak about loyalty and unity and honor and 'The Code' isn't just coachspeak. The Ravens really will close ranks around one of their own, no matter what—even if it means spitting in the eye of domestic abuse victims, allies, and women everywhere in the process.
Byrne quoted Bisciotti as saying, "Is it a flaw for us that we support our players in tough times? If it is, I'm OK with that," and Byrne says he is, too.
Supporting Rice so aggressively in the tough times he brought upon himself, though, completely downplays the significance of his actions.