WASHINGTON — The Baltimore Ravens, under fire for their handling of Ray Rice’s assault case, exchanged almost 8,000 of the star running back’s jerseys, The Baltimore Sun reported Saturday. The team offered the exchange for fans who had bought Rice merchandise but no longer wanted to wear the jersey of the player caught on video punching the woman who is now his wife in a casino elevator. The Rice case — in which his original two-game ban drew sharp criticism as being too lenient — is just one of the cases of off-field violence that have the immensely popular NFL facing a public relations crisis. Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne told the Sun that as of noon, 7,115 fans had been to the team’s stadium over the course of the two-day exchange. Byrne said the team had anticipated around 5,000 and had given out 5,595 replacement jerseys and 2,368 vouchers for replacements. Team officials did not give an exact cost for the exchange, but said estimates exceeded US$250,000.
Questions after Investigative Article The Ravens have said they will wait until next week to address an ESPN.com “Outside the Lines” investigative article claiming that team officials overruled coach John Harbaugh’s desire to cut Rice after the February assault in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The article also says that Ravens officials knew the contents of the video that became public in August — which showed Rice punching his future wife — and tried to suppress it while seeking leniency for Rice. Rice avoided jail time on domestic violence charges by agreeing in May to a pre-trial intervention program. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell initially banned Rice for two games, but after the video of the punch was posted online by TMZ, the Ravens cut Rice and Goodell banned him indefinitely from the league. In a statement on their webstie, the Ravens said the ESPN article “contains numerous errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings.” On Friday, an embattled Goodell vowed to put the league’s “house in order” amid growing consternation on the part of fans and corporate partners of the world’s richest sports league over a string of violent incidents involving players. The furor over Rice was followed by similar NFL waffling in the cases of Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy — convicted of assaulting a former girlfriend and threatening to kill her — and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who has been charged with child abuse in Texas after allegedly whipping his four-year-old son with a switch cut from a tree. San Francisco 49ers defender Ray McDonald has been accused of hitting his pregnant girlfriend, and Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested Wednesday on charges he assaulted his wife and was deactivated by the team.