Although details surrounding his arrest remain cloudy, Ray Rice’s reputation for giving back to the community should help him maintain his image as a role model.
Marty Appel, a former Rockland and Westchester resident and one-time Yankees public-relations director under George Steinbrenner, believes Rice can rebuild his reputation, largely due to his positive history.
“I think Ray has a lot of goodwill in the bank,” said Appel, who started Marty Appel Public Relations in 1998. “He generally seems to have a good reputation, so I think this is something people can easily put behind them.”
Rice, a 27-year-old Baltimore Ravens running back and former New Rochelle High School star, was arrested over the weekend with his fiancee, Janay Palmer of Mount Vernon. According to the Atlantic City (N.J.) Police Department, Rice and Palmer were charged with simple assault-domestic violence after an altercation at a casino. They were released on their own recognizance.
Ben Renzin, Rice’s manager, referred all requests for comment to Michael Diamondstein, a Philadelphia-based criminal defense attorney who is representing Rice. Diamondstein did not return calls seeking comment.
The incident shocked members of the community who knew Rice best for his work close to home.
“I think it’s just a very unfortunate situation,” said Stephen D. Horton, executive director of the New Rochelle Municipal Housing Authority. “But, for me, I know the whole man. I’m taking it within the context of what I know of the whole person.”
The housing authority — which supports low- and moderate-income housing in New Rochelle, including the Peter Bracey Apartments where Rice was raised — has hosted Ray Rice Family Day for three years and dedicated the Bracey basketball courts in Rice’s honor. Rice also annually hosts Ray Rice Day — a youth football camp sponsored by The Journal News Media Group — at New Rochelle High School and a similar event in Baltimore, his in-season home.
In addition to his work with children, Rice has been an anti-bullying advocate.
Palmer — a Good Counsel graduate whose sister, Taylor, is a senior basketball player at West Virginia — has been a fixture at a number of area events held in Rice’s honor.
“I know, from my experience, that they interact very well together,” Horton said. “I know they’ve had their child with them on a couple of occasions, and they both seemed to put the health and welfare of the child first.”
Khalil Edney, quarterback of New Rochelle’s 2012 state championship football team, said the incident would not alter his opinion of Rice.
“He’s human,” said Edney, a freshman at Monroe Community College. “He made a mistake.”
Rice’s success on the field — he signed a five-year, $35 million contract before the 2012 season — is matched by the goodwill he has fostered in the community. And despite the incident over the weekend — which followed a subpar 2013 NFL season — the Ravens expressed support Monday for their Pro Bowl running back. General manager Ozzie Newsome said Rice was “still a big part of what we plan to do in 2014,” The Baltimore Sun reported.
Appel suggested Rice apologize to fans and teammates via social media (Rice hasn’t posted to his Twitter account, @RayRice27, since Feb. 12). Appel said the public would forget Rice’s transgressions quickly.
“I don’t think the public has a great attention span, unless there’s a felony incident that involves a court proceeding,” Appel said.