It’s been six months since footage of professional football player Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancé Janay Palmer unconscious in a casino elevator went viral, catapulting their marriage and the National Football League’s handling domestic violence issues into the spotlight.
Now, in the wake of an appeal ruling that will allow Rice to be signed by another NFL team, his wife is finally speaking out in an exclusive interview with “TODAY” host Matt Lauer.
Staying silent has been the “hardest part,” she told Lauer. “It’s a natural thing for a human to want to come out and say, ‘No, no. That’s not me,’ or, ‘No, that’s not true.’ But it’s like a battle that we just can’t win.”
In her interview, Janay – and her mother Candy Palmer, who sits beside her for the interview – defends Rice, saying he never hurt her physically before or after the incident.
“No. Not at all. Ray knows me. And there’s no way. He knows what he would have to deal with, you know, if this was something. You know, I’m not going to sit there in silence and let something happen to me,” she said, as her mother affirmed it.
Janay also revealed what it felt like for the video to be released.
“We knew that it was going to happen. We didn’t know exactly when it was going to happen. But there was no preparing us for that at all. When I saw that it was horrible you can’t make excuses for anything, but we were highly intoxicated. And in the moment you’re not thinking about, ‘Oh my god. I’m on camera in an elevator,’” she said.
Afterwards the video was released, the couple appeared in a joint press conference earning even more ire, when critics argued that Janay was apologizing for being abused while Ray Rice wasn’t taking responsibility for his actions.
“I was ready to do anything that was going to help the situation,” Janay said of the now infamous press conference, saying she wanted to help her husband and his career. “Help the way we looked in the media. Help his image. Help obviously his career. So, you know, they told us earlier that week we would do the press conference.”
As for Rice’s remorse, Janay said “in our mind, it’s obvious.”
“He apologized to me more than once. Countless amounts of times. I’m sitting there next to him, so I wouldn’t be sitting there next to him if I wasn’t the first person to get an apology. There’s no way. But the whole thing was awkward. We were just doing what we had to do to get it over and done with,” she told Lauer.
Janay revealed that team officials suggested she make an apology, and she defended her decision to comply.
“[O]bviously people took it as, you know, I’m taking light off of what Ray did. In no way,” she said. “At the same time I didn’t think it was completely wrong for me to apologize, because at the end of the day I got arrested, too, so I did something wrong, too. Not taking any light off of what Ray did because I agree with everybody else. He was wrong.”
On Saturday, after the former Baltimore Ravens running back won the appeal of his suspension, Janay told the press she was “thankful.”
“I will continue working hard to improve myself and be the best husband, father and friend, while giving back to my community and helping others to learn from my mistakes,” Rice said. Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones heard the appeal and concluded that Rice hadn’t lied or mislead NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who handed down an indefinite suspension of the former Pro Bowler in September.
“[A]ny failure on the part of the League to understand the level of violence was not due to Rice’s description of the event but to the inadequacy of words to convey the seriousness of domestic violence. That the League did not realize the severity of the conduct without a visual record also speaks to their admitted failure in the past to sanction this type of conduct more severely,” the judge ruled.
Ray Rice’s exclusive interview with Lauer will air Tuesday on “TODAY”.