Janay Palmer’s Ethics Fallacy Cornucopia


I suffer pangs of conscience as I do this to Janay Palmer, who has plenty of other pressing problems, but it you are going to put out a public statement on social media that threatens to melt the ethics alarms of millions, you can’t reasonably expect me to stand by and take it.

Palmer produced this on Instagram in response to the NFL’s bizarre do-over on her husband’s punishment, which combined with his team, the Baltimore Ravens, releasing him as persona non grata, effectively makes Ray Rice an ex-star running back for the foreseeable future:

I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend. But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is a horrific [sic]. THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is! Ravensnation we love you!


  • Who is her “closest friend?” Ray Rice, her husband and sparring partner? If your best friend is prone to punch you silly in elevators, I think your relationship either has trust issues, or should have. Does she mean his career, which is what actually “died”? That’s telling, if so, and crassly. Was her best friend really Ray’s 8 million dollar a year pay check? Did that justify standing up for the right of rich, famous celebrities to knock their arm-candy around when they think nobody’s looking?
  • Competence check: like it or not, Janay is in the public eye, and what she has to say right now is likely to be read far and wide. How about having someone literate check out your screed before reminding us again what a cheat the public school system is?
  • Janay’s husband beats her unconscious, she lets him get away with it and sends the message to women trapped in abusive relationships that security and a ring is worth the occasional black eye, and her position is that Rice’s demise is the fault of the media and the public? Let’s go to the videotape, shall we?

  • “To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing.” This wasn’t “a moment.” A sunset is a moment. This was conduct with significance. Janay is playing the “just one mistake” card, the essence of Rationalizations #19 and #20, with their refrain of “Hey! Nobody’ perfect! Haven’t we all knocked a woman we love out cold when she ticked us off?” Uh, no, and healthy, ethical, trustworthy people don’t do that even once. Actions have consequences that extend beyond a “moment,” especially when those actions constitute crimes as well as warnings of worse to come.
  • Just to gain ratings”? That’s what Janay takes away from this, eh? Wow. In fact, Janay’s husband harmed the NFL’s image and reputation at a time when it was already bungling the tricky Michael Sam situation and trying to make the public think it really cares that it is crippling its players for fun and profit. The NFL would probably hold its ratings if it fielded nothing but teams of serial killers: Rice was cheered by Baltimore fans. No, Janay, your husband’s career was taken away because it is toxic for a society to have as high-profile, highly paid heroes men who break laws and beat up women.
  • “THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get.” Janay’s the one who doesn’t get it. The Rices traded in the right to insist that they can act like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots without consequences when they entered the Celebrity Zone. That’s the source of all that money, fame and perks, but with it comes the obligation not to inspire buyer’s remorse. In short, it’s not your life. Public figures have obligations to the public, and one of them is not to trivialize domestic violence.
  • It’s not personal. Janay thinks everyone is determined to make her and Ray miserable: this is all about being mean,  a reaction to earned punishment that we are supposed to jettison around the age of 15. No, the punishment has a purpose, and it has much less to do with Ray Rice than it does with making sure the message comes through that Janay herself doesn’t comprehend: domestic violence is intolerable. Engage in it, and society will make you sorry.
  • “Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is!”  Right. We already saw what you and Ray think real love is, and it was easier to take when it was just a Spike Jones spoof:
  • It’s not so much about ethics as a useful tip: If you can’t say something intelligent and constructive about an important problem, don’t say it in public. Then, you’re only in trouble if you’re talking to V. Stiviano.

But wait! There’s more!

The Washington Post online commenters added their ethics confusion to the cornucopia. For example…

  • “…my sensors indicate that the earth americas public and media are guilty of piling on…
    …these haters are all over this football player like white on rice…what manner of society is your earth americas where you condemn a physically imposing man for striking his belligerent mate yet you defend a physically weak coward with a gun for shooting and killing an unarmed boy carrying skittles and milk on his way home from a store….my sensors indicate you earthlings are pathetic hypocrites… “

That’s right: if a spousal abuser is black, it’s racist to condemn him. And alsoTRAYVON!

  • “Yes lets crucify any women that show  forgiveness”

She is certainly free to forgive him; that doesn’t mean society should, or that we are necessarily wise to assume this is forgiveness rather than something less healthy.

  • “Employers shouldn’t be held responsible for the employees’ behavior off the job. If you don’t like the people who play, don’t watch…”

And if they don’t watch, then the employer is harmed, hence the reason sports celebrities are accountable for their conduct off the field. This was from the same genius who made the previous comment.

  •  “God bless you Janay and Ray. I believe in second chances in life. Too many of us have things in our past that we’d never want the world to see. Of course, the media trolls are perfect among us mere mortals, so they can cast stones.”

Everybody does it. Except, you know, they don’t. And we’d like to keep it that way, you gullible sap, but thanks for referencing #6, the Biblical rationalizations, oldies but goodies.

  • “This gets to the crux of the issue. Folks are just hating on him because he makes millions playing a game. I’m sorry your envy shouldn’t deprive a man from pursuing his life’s work.”

There’s not even a good name for thinking like this. Stupid, maybe.

From another site…

  • “And how many jackasses get up and bray after release of a video such as this to prove their moral superiority. Save the faux outrage for the likes of Fauxcahontas. This is an example of selective targeting. And if you don’t believe me, go to any prosecutor’s office and speak with the Deputy DA who handles domestic violence cases (of which there are way too many in this country). The stories will curl your hair”

Yes! This guy actually compares this to Elizabeth Warren’s dubious Native American heritage claim! This is Rationalization #22, “It’s not the worst thing,” at its finest and most ridiculous.

  • “If she said it was a personal matter and should remain between her and her husband, we face a difficult situation. How much do the rights of two individuals get overrun by satisfying public opinion? If they had a similar incident or “physical relationship” behind closed doors perhaps some of the more physically punishing sadomasochistic practices that are celebrated in art and the extreme left, where does society have a right or responsibility to intervene?

I was looking for a good example of  #42. The Hillary Inoculation, or “If he/she doesn’t care, why should anyone else?”



Facts: Washington Post


20 thoughts on “Janay Palmer’s Ethics Fallacy Cornucopia

  1. She is certainly free to forgive him; that doesn’t mean society should, or that we are necessarily wise to assume this is forgiveness rather than something less healthy.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but did Not Jesus Christ say if we refuse to forgive our enemies, our Father in Heaven will not forgive us?

      • Perhaps another wonderful example of a reason to reject pure dogma. “God told us to forgive people, and judge not lest we be judged, and not to throw rocks and stuff, so we shouldn’t judge people who beat other people, or do horrible things. Heck, if a serial killer murders a million people and then shows contrition, we should be OK with that.” Pure pseudo-pacifism nonsense. And a point where the bible directly contradicts itself, God spent the whole book of Leviticus detailing inventive and gruesome ways to murder tribadists and cheating spouses, directly assuming people would judge their neighbors, and then having Jesus tell us not to. It’s like that quote from the Devil’s Advocate:

        “Look but don’t touch. Touch, but don’t taste. Taste, don’t swallow. Ahaha. And while you’re jumpin’ from one foot to the next, what is he doing? He’s laughin’ His sick, fuckin’ ass off!”

        • Odd. I’d find most Christians clearly consider that the government’s business (even endorsed by God) is to maintain law and order on Earth, while each individual person should be called to higher goal. This in no way is excludes both routes: in which the mass murderer is punished but each individual can choose to forgive them.

          • The problem with that thought process is that it ignores that the government is made up of people. That fails Kant utterly.

            But I like how you separated “punish them” and “forgive them” and pointed out that they aren’t mutually exclusive. You’re right! They aren’t! But there’s a difference between “forgive them” and “blank slate” which is what Michael took as biblically appropriate.

            I try not to dictate faith to the faithful, but I’ll blow holes through it when I think it’s ridiculous.

            • You’ll need to explain further how your 1st paragraph adds to or contradicts my comment. I don’t see it, because even in the Government’s role of law and order, each individual carrying out acts of punishment may even choose to privately forgive (an act completely between they and their Maker if they are of that persuasion).

              Your 2nd paragraph is misguided. Ejercito’s comment was directed at Janay’s individual decision to forgive and doesn’t address at all the greater Community’s right to punish.

              • To your second point, you’re going to have to forgive my ignorance of pronouns, because when Michael said “So should we not forgive Ray Rice in order to avoid the wrath of God ” and “Correct me if I am wrong, but did Not Jesus Christ say if we refuse to forgive our enemies, our Father in Heaven will not forgive us” I took “we”, “us” and “our” to mean “us”, and not “Janay”, “she” or “her”.

                I wanted to clear that up first because in order to understand my first paragraph you need the context provided by Michael’s comments, your comment and the rest of my comment as they were written. Whether you believe Michael was talking about “us” or “Janay” isn’t important. I took his comments to mean that “forgiveness” translated to “blank slate”, pointed out that the government was made of people, and pointed out that Kant should apply.

                What I didn’t do was tie it all together. If you apply universality to the suggestion that to avoid hell, all people should forgive all other people and give them a blank slate, the government, which is a body made up of people, would render laws utterly unenforceable.

                • “you’re going to have to forgive my ignorance of pronouns”

                  Forgiven, but understandable. The term “we” is quite versatile and in Ejercito’s use of it, it reads to me as “any of us facing this same situation should be forgiving” not “our government should give this guy a blank slate” as you interpret it. Further adding that from Ejercito’s Christian stance, he’s addressing other Christians and perhaps projecting those sentiments onto Janay on the assumption that in her mind she feels the need to forgive.

                  Your 2nd paragraph still explains nothing because it does matter what Ejercito was focusing on. If he was focusing on the notion of individual or personal forgiveness of another’s wrongs, then there is nothing wrong with the forgiving individual looking at the other as having a blank slate. Again, you can’t conflate individual personal private attitudes with those of the corporate behavior of the government. Sorry, you can’t. You certainly can’t generalize an individual’s personal Christian notions of forgiveness to a secular institution governing crime and punishment system that is constitutionally prohibited from enacting laws based on the religion of the particular individual in question.

                  • Again, you can’t conflate individual personal private attitudes with those of the corporate behavior of the government. Sorry, you can’t.

                    Of course I can, and I find it telling you associate ‘government’ with ‘corporate’. I think where you’re going with this is because we elect the government and give them a mandate that they can do things that we aren’t allowed to do, and that’s fair, but there’s a difference between what a government is legally allowed to do and what they ethically should do, and those ethical values should be representative of the electorate. Looking at the ethical test of universality, you ask yourself “what would happen if everyone shared this value” and the answer is, if everyone shared that value, the government should not do it. And you have to apply universality to governments, because if you don’t you’re basically saying “I find this behavior unethical, so I don’t want to do it, but I find the unethical behavior fundamentally necessary, so this group of individuals can dirty their hands, and still leave me feeling superior.” And that’s not ethical. Sorry, it isn’t.

                    And it’s following that line of logic that it isn’t important whether Michael was referring to this group or Janay. universality wouldn’t apply to a Janay – Us comparison because our situations are different. But I think it’s fair to say that if you expect forgiveness from the person most hurt by the situation, you should probably carry the expectation to everyone less effected.

                    I think our hang up is on the ‘blank slate’ issue. Forgiveness is a virtue, but burying your head in the sand isn’t. If by forgiveness you meant not harboring any lasting bad feelings, while still holding him accountable, great! That’s probably an ethical behavior, although it bears mention that I’m not sure if it’s unethical to harbor those bad feelings. If instead, we pretend it never happened, that’s very unethical. Period.

                    Finally, I have a confession to make, When I made my comment about pronouns, I had meant to be sarcastic, your acceptance of what I said as I said it surprised me because I take it to mean that you believe in your translation as much as I believe in mine. I would love Michael to make that clear, because I’m still not convinced “we” means “Janay” as opposed to “us” just like I’m not sure whether forgiveness means “not harbor bad feelings” or “blank slate”. So I apologise, unreserved, for the confusion.

                    • You still can’t conflate a Christian notion of being expected to forgive with a Government mandate to forgive all lawbreakers. Our nation isn’t set up that way AND if you wanted to Universalize Christian forgiveness, you’d need to Universalize Christian attitudes of doing to wrong…in which case the scenario doesn’t occur. But I think it’s a misapplication of Kant’s Universal anyway, as it applies to conduct, not personal attitudes.

                      And yes, it is still important what Ejercito was alluding to when he said “we”. You have to insist it isn’t important, lest your stance fall apart. If Ejercito does mean “government” when he says “we”, then I’d say he’s on shaky ground. If he means what I think he means, then there really is no objection.

                      I think compelling universal forgiveness if a particular victim is forgiving is a non-sequitur. Forgiveness as expressed by Ejerctio is a personal thing, again. If the victim of an attempted murder forgives the assailant (as they on a stretch have every right to do) does not mean a crime still has not been committed.

                      I knew your “pronoun” comment was sarcastic, but I wasn’t gonna let it fly since interpretation of the term “we” was an important point, so I went with it. No offense intended.

                    • “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
                      “- Romans 13: 4

                      It seems that it is the role of lawfully instituted authorities to judge people, while the masses must forgive.

  2. As usual, your take on a given issue leaves my head spinning with its logic and good sense, even when I disagree with you. Perhaps it’s part of the “Hilary Rationalization” but I wonder if any of us have relationships or marriages that could stand up to this kind of scrutiny, celebrity status notwithstanding. A spotlight this bright on my own home would be more than difficult, and I suspect that’s true for most couples, most of whom live under agreements that most often are not shared with even their closest friends or family. We cannot know what goes on in a marriage, and we certainly don’t know where these two people have been with one another since this now well-dissected incident. I’m all for letting the Rices recede into the sunset with the hope they’ll stop commenting publicly except as poster kids for stopping/preventing domestic abuse.

    • It’s a great point, Mark, but also a bit circular: if one is going to be in the public eye, one has to accept that higher, perhaps impossible standard, so the fact that none of those who aren’t in the public eye could meet the same standard isn’t a problem. And, obviously, the “don’t punch your partner in the face” rule should be the easiest of them to abide by.

  3. I ceased to care about women who forgive their abusers in 2013 when one such woman used me as an emotional sponge for eight months before marrying her abuser and now they had a baby and their life together is oh-so-perfect. Maybe there really is nothing more to worry about and they just had a bad year (or two) leading up to the wedding, but I will say this, if things do go bad somewhere down the line, I won’t be there for this person again, the cost for me was high in time and pain and accomplished nothing.

    I am now of the opinion that any woman who is abused, gets the police involved, and then drops the charges, marries the abuser anyway, or does some other action that shows assent to the abuse should be marked “low priority” by the authorities. As it is the emergency services are pretty stretched, and it is a waste of taxpayer money to send them to break up the third fight at the same address only to have the woman refuse to sign the complaint or change her mind after the case is ready to go to trial and refuse to testify. Let the cops respond to the shots fired calls, the robbery in progress calls, heck, even the stolen lawnmowers that they know they will never recover, before they waste their time with yet another dead end. If he kills her, then prosecute the murder.

  4. Jack:
    Help me out here. I agree with everything you said above with the small exception that being in the public eye means that you must divorce yourself from any expectation of being treated as any other person would in the same circumstances.

    With that said, my confusion on ethics is whether or not one should judge anyone’s behavior without the full context of the preceding events. In no way shape or form am I condoning any behavior in this matter however, circulating on the web is a story that the long version with audio shows the two shouting obscenities at each other and Janay Palmer is shown spitting in his face prior to his act of aggressive retaliation (I did not say Ray Rice’s actions were defensive).

    Let me first say that I believe that acts of violence are born out of an inability to develop a more constructive non-violent response at a given moment (social pathology), fear (biological pathology), or uncontrolled anger (psychotic pathology). As I have no knowledge of Ray Rice’s state of mind at the time, I can only rule out that he struck her out of fear of bodily injury.

    Every pundit has rallied around the cries of women everywhere against physical violence against women. I have no problem with that but if evidence exists that shows that Janay Palmer assaulted him first by spitting in his face shouldn’t that be available for public view, or at least reported just as the much as the video of him striking her and dragging her out of the elevator? By only televising a portion of events we do not see the totality of the circumstances. To me this is no different than the videos released by Hamas that show innocent victims of violence from the stronger Israeli adversary.

    Had Ray Rice simply wiped his face, left her standing in the elevator and ending the relationship immediately, he would have done the right thing; yet I doubt if the video would have created the fervor around domestic violence. Would the domestic violence experts have weighed in so heavily had he done the right thing? Would the NFL showcase the correct behavior when assaulted by a domestic partner? I doubt it. Thus, Janay Palmer may be right regarding the level of spectacle being related to generating ratings. We love to see people fall from grace because it makes us feel better about our own failures and insecurities. To me, ethics requires that we show the same level of judgment irrespective of the offender’s gender or status. I see this as the opposite of the King’s pass rationalization. We should hold in more contempt others we once revered when they behave as the masses do.

    In your other posts on this matter many have expressed numerous reasons why women stay in abusive relationships, the patterns of self destructive behavior that reinforce the cycle of violence against women; yet we are loathe to examine ethics of the victim. You wrote an post on what we do to sports commentators when one suggested that women examine their own precipitating behaviors. They are ridiculed and suspended.

    Please understand that I am not trying to mitigate his offensive actions. I am just trying to illustrate that we often make snap judgments based on incomplete information. There are no preemptive challenges among jurors in the court of public opinion. There are those that will be fair and just and those whose bias will allow them to be caught up in the lynch mob mentality.

    Should Ray Rice be suspended indefinitely, maybe so. The NFL and the Ravens have brand image to protect. But if society deems that a person must be suspended indefinitely from their profession for an act of violence, then men and women of all status and public persona must be summarily discharged from their profession when it is learned that they have committed a violent offense against another. Public crucifixion for an offense simply because the person is in the limelight is not just. He or she owes no one any higher obligation to society than anyone else. They are not superhuman so we should not expect as much. They are no different than the policemen on the corner, the teacher in the classroom, or the parent that commits or is on the receiving end of domestic violence. These are the people we interact with on a daily basis and have more lasting influence on us, not the likes of Ray and Janay Rice.

    With that said, I not only condemn Ray Rice’s violent outburst against his fiancé but also his unwillingness to drop a women from his life who feels she can spit on him at will. She too is an abuser and until he used violence in retaliation he is no different than any other victim in domestic abuse. I also condemn anyone that knowingly turns a blind eye to her behavior to advance the notion that women play no role in the events that culminate in abuse. I condemn all the male knights in shining armor that want to ride to rescue of the female victims when the women are unwilling to rescue themselves; such paternalism. I am confident that women have the power to control their destiny if they choose to; perhaps more so than all those that try to rationalize irrational behavior.

    • In a word: sure it’s relevant. Just not in this case, as it turns out. There is literally nothing Janay could have done, short of come at Rice with a knife, that could mitigate an NFL player treating her like that. He’s a trained head-basher, she isn’t. You know, it wouldn’t be a lot different if he had done the same to a non-athlete, smaller man.

      The classic example was the Rodney King video, which was shown in edited fashion, omitting King charging the officers and appearing to be immune to their initial efforts to restrain them. It still did npt justify their final attack, stooping over his prone body and beating him, but it made the episode a lot less outrageous than what the news media initially showed the public—and what sparked the riots.

      • Jack;
        I agree that it may not be relevant in this case. That was not my point. My point was that selective editing never tells the entire story. I make no bones about him being dead wrong. What exactly is learned and remembered. Nothing except that the big strong man beat a woman. The selective editing is used to advance the idea that women are always innocent parties to abuse. There is no mention on why the issue escalated to the level that it did. Why not? What lesson was learned from this? Nothing except to give some the ammunition to portray most men as brutes. The video portrayed Ray Rice as a brute very effectively and accurately but the selective editing does not tell the entire story.

        Words are not provocation of violence in the eyes of the law or ethics as far as I am concerned. However, I don’t think that many would feel sorry for little 130 pound white man that walks into an African American community yelling racial epithets and subsequently gets pulverized. His words should not be construed as a provocation for violence against him but we all would think view him as an unethical idiot and moron, and many would feel that the violence was justified.

        You said: There is literally nothing Janay could have done, short of come at Rice with a knife, that could mitigate an NFL player treating her like that. He’s a trained head-basher, she isn’t.

        Why should it matter whether he is a much stronger NFL player or an accountant of equal stature and strength as the victim? Would it make a difference if she were of the same size and strength, or is it just the cultural norm that men are supposed to protect women at almost any cost? Why don’t we feel that we must protect men from other men or women from other women, or men from women? We don’t and that was my point.

        You could also say that: There is literally nothing Ray could have said that would mitigate being spat upon, it is a physical assault on his person; unless of course women are granted special privilege.

        What you described is the only affirmative act on her part that would have been a defensible reason for him striking her. I am not even sure if a knife would have prompted me to strike her. I would first try to restrain. It would probably take a cut to get me to strike back against someone smaller and weaker. Spitting in his face is not a valid defense as I pointed out. My point was that had she not spit in his face the situation might not have escalated to a point that resulted in his offending action. I am not condoning any behavior in this matter; especially that of Ray Rice. Either of them could have shut their own mouths or gotten off the elevator at any time to deescalate the situation. The only ethical affirmative action on either part was to stop being a participant in the dispute. Neither chose to do so. As such, the behavior of the victim should be examined and not rationalized away because of mere gender so that we might teach a better process in problem resolution.

        Please keep this in mind. Much of the violence in the low income communities across the U.S. takes place because the perpetrators seem to lack skills in problem resolution. Some use their relative size to impose dominion over the smaller and weaker. The small and weak get guns to even the playing field. Kids are gunned down on the street when another perceives to have been “disrespected” for some silly slight. Some want to ban guns to eliminate the violence but guns are seen in these communities as simply the quick way to amass a sense of power. Failure to address the precipitating behavioral factors that lead to an episode escalating into a violent event will ensure the violence continues unabated.

  5. Correction:
    “I see this as the opposite of the King’s pass rationalization. We should hold in more contempt others we once revered when they behave as the masses do.”
    Should read as:
    I see this as the opposite of the King’s pass rationalization: “We should hold in more contempt others we once revered when they behave as the masses do.”

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