By Andrew R. Koch
Throughout Baltimore and across the country there has been no small amount of outrage over the video showing former Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée inside a casino elevator in Atlantic City last February. Businesses are accepting returns of Ray Rice memorabilia and are also making donations to organizations that advocate for victims of domestic violence. However, one University student is challenging his fellow Ravens fans to express their anger by making a fiery statement.
Brandon Simmons is a freshman Digital Communication major at UB. He’s been a fan of the Ravens ever since they moved from Cleveland to Baltimore. On Sept. 8, the day the now-infamous video showing what happened inside the elevator was released, Simmons posted a video on YouTube that starts by showing his Ray Rice purple home jersey laid out on a walkway.
“This is the Ray Rice Jersey Burning Challenge,” Simmons says in the video as he proceeds to pour rubbing alcohol on the jersey and then light it on fire. “I challenge everyone who owns a Ray Rice jersey to go outside tonight, tomorrow, some time, to burn his damn jersey, because he doesn’t deserve to be honored.”
Simmons goes on to call Rice’s jerseys “worthless.” Rice used to be Simmons’s favorite player ever since the Ravens drafted the former Heisman Trophy candidate out of Rutgers University in 2007. He liked how Rice, over time, “became one of the best running backs in the league.” Rice’s fall from grace has not been easy for Simmons to take as a fan.
“To see how he went from that (being one of the NFL’s top running backs) to now he’s not on the team, and it’s kind of disappointed me as a fan,” Simmons said. He said what Rice was shown doing in the surveillance video to the woman who’s now his wife (Janay Rice) is what angered him to the point of recording him burning his number 27 Ravens jersey.
“It’s not right to abuse other people in general, whether it’s your wife or a friend or a person you don’t know, it’s not right to attack people, period.
And I was angry that a person I looked up to did that, and so I decided to burn his jersey,” Simmons said.
Simmons says his video was “kind of a statement,” and was meant to disown Rice. In the video, he says
“Ray Rice doesn’t deserve to be on the Baltimore Ravens anymore. Ray Rice is not welcome in Baltimore anymore.”
In an interview with reporter Jim McKay of All News 99.1 WNEW-FM, Simmons said, “Even though I forgive him, it’s not right what he did.”
When McKay asked Simmons if he felt that the Ravens and the NFL made the right calls in terminating his contract and suspending him indefinitely, respectively, he said, “I think it’s the perfect call to do. Most fans agree with the call.” However, Simmons told The UB Post that the reaction he’s gotten to his YouTube video hasn’t quite been as warm.
“I’ve seen some people support it and do it themselves, while others have personally attacked me online. I’ve seen it from both sides,” Simmons said.
He added that he’s seen a lot of anger from other Ravens fans towards him instead of towards domestic abuse. The point of his video was to highlight domestic violence.
“It wasn’t just directed towards Ray Rice. I don’t like anyone doing that to anybody. It doesn’t matter who it is,” Simmons said.
Meanwhile, the NFL Players Association filed an appeal of Rice’s indefinite suspension just before the midnight deadline on Sept. 16. In the appeal, Rice and the NFLPA are asking Commissioner Roger Goodell to recuse himself from the review hearing. As part of the appeal, Rice is reportedly going to claim that the video was edited and not the extended version of what happened that February night at the Revel Casino.
Since Rice’s release and indefinite suspension, stores around the Baltimore area have been pulling his jerseys and T-shirts from their shelves. M&T Bank and Nike have dropped him from their ad campaigns and endorsement deals, and EA Sports, which produces the popular Madden video games, has deleted Rice from the Ravens roster for the Madden ‘15 edition. The Ravens held a jersey exchange at their official team store at M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 19 and 20 that drew over 7,000 people, and Smyth Jewelers in Timonium has been accepting returns of Rice-signed pictures and other merchandise, including jerseys. Customers will receive a store credit, and Smyth will also make a matching contribution to House of Ruth Maryland, a shelter for young women and children who are victims of domestic violence in Baltimore.