Former NFL star Ray Rice, who saw his career unwind in the aftermath of an aggravated assault indictment for punching his wife in an elevator, spoke out against domestic violence and sexual assault of women at the Big 12’s “State of College Athletics” forum on Wednesday alongside several key figures including league commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
Rice, who has turned his life around in quest of an NFL redemption, said in his heyday he was “so concerned with being the man instead of being a man. … There are rules for life as a man, and the No. 1 rule is never put your hands on a woman.”
Rice, speaking specifically about the culture on college campuses such as Baylor, said sexual assault is an “epidemic” and offered his take at part of the solution at the college level.
He noted that “the teams that get it are the ones who hold themselves accountable” and believes players must police themselves outside of the locker room.
“If someone witnessed a rape,” Rice said, before emotionally pausing. “That team has to be unified not just in the locker room. It’s society, too. You can’t just say, ‘that’s my teammate having a good time.’ Because a lot of guys forget who they are once they’re out of the locker room.”
Rice, who played in college at Rutgers, added that discussions about sexual assault and domestic violence — within teams in high school, college and professionally — need to take place at the right time, when players will actually pay attention, noting that oftentimes players don’t listen during educational and informational exercises because of fatigue or poor timing.
Bowlsby also hammered that point home, saying in reference to a sexual assault scandal like the one at Big 12 member Baylor: “The short answer is, everybody is accountable.”
“There are those that do a very good job and those who do a very poor or superficial job,” Bowlsby said. “It’s a check the box exercise. It’s very different than creating a culture in the locker room of understanding what consent is. …You’d like to have a culture that transcended that structure.”
Bowlsby and panel members specifically did not refer to alleged offenders or schools by name at the forum.
CBS journalist Armen Keteyian, who moderated the forum, pointed out three issues as part of the problem: Alcohol, the entitlement of a popular athlete and the complication of consent.
Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor and prominent advocate, offered a much simpler take.
“The only thing that causes a rape is a rapist,” she said. “The rapist makes a decision to violate someone else’s body without consent. We have to stop re-framing this around alcohol.”
Sergeant Byron Fassett of the Dallas Police Department said it’s a cultural issue, not just an issue in sports.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this problem,” he said. “We can put abusers in jail. But it’s about our culture. Our colleges represent society. …College is microcosm of society. It’s a really good way to deal with this issue. …We have to acknowledge that this is a cultural problem first.”