For the first time since video emerged in September of her husband Ray punching her inside an Atlantic City casino elevator last February, Janay Rice is speaking out about the assault, the media firestorm that followed the video’s release, and the NFL’s handling of her husband’s discipline.
Janay Rice sat down with NBC’s Matt Lauer for an interview that will air Monday and Tuesday morning on the Today show. You can watch a clip from the interview above.
Janay, known by her maiden name, Janay Palmer, at the time of the assault, later married Rice and stood by him as the league issued a two-game suspension, then suspended him indefinitely after the Ravens cut Rice following the video’s release by TMZ on September 8.
On Friday, a retired judge serving as an independent arbitrator overturned the league’s indefinite suspension, ruling that by suspending Rice indefinitely after the video’s release, the league had unjustifiably punished the Baltimore running back twice for the same crime. Rice is now a free agent and can sign with any team, though it’s not clear anyone will pick him up for the final four weeks of the regular season.
The interview comes more than nine months after the assault and almost three months after the release of the video, which thrust Janay back into the spotlight.
Read on for more about Janay, her background and her marriage to the ex-Ravens running back.
1. Janay Has a Communications Degree From Towson University
Janay is a graduate of Towson University in Baltimore, where she majored in communications after transferring from Westchester Community College when the Ravens drafted Ray.
Her graduation gift from Rice was an engagement ring and a new car.
“I almost passed out when he told me the car was mine. I’m just happy I decided to be nice that day instead of letting him get his own wallet,” she said at the time. The couple were married in March 2014.
On March 27, Ray Rice was indicted on charges of aggravated assault relating to the incident.
2. Janay & Ray Have a Daughter Named Rayven
The couple have one daughter, Rayven, who was born in February 2012. Rayven is named for the team that drafted Ray Rice in the second round in 2009 and helped turn him into a Pro Bowler before cutting him in September following the video’s release.
In a first-person account of her relationship with Ray and the fallout of the assault published by ESPN, Janay described finding out she was pregnant weeks after Ray had proposed.
We were engaged in May 2012. Ray had come home for the weekend and proposed in front of my house. The first thing I asked him was, “Did you ask my dad?” He said yes, course.
A few weeks after Ray proposed, I found out I was pregnant with Rayven. I told him I didn’t want to get married with baby weight, so we waited. That was a good thing, because there were things we needed to work on in our relationship that we might have ignored because we were just young.
Rayven changed both of our lives. We were working together for something, which was Rayven. Family has always been a priority for me, and the love Ray has for Rayven reminded me of my relationship with my own father.
One big thing: Ray used to say that as long as he had football and took care of his family, then everything else would fall into place. But relationships take work, which is something we both had to learn.
Janay and Ray have known each other since the two were in high school in Westchester County, New York. Janay Rice grew up in Mount Vernon, while Ray grew up in nearby New Rochelle.
The couple had their first date at the Cheesecake Factory where Palmer says, “I was so nervous, I didn’t even eat dinner. I just ate a slice of cheesecake.”
It was love at first sight, Happy Bday to my princess!! pic.twitter.com/Q7UPPnEG30
— Ray Rice (@RayRice27) January 30, 2014
3. Janay’s Sister Played Basketball at West Virginia
Janay’s sister, Taylor, played basketball at West Virginia University, where she led the Mountaineers to four straight NCAA tournament appearances and was named Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year as a senior in 2013-14.
Taylor finished her career tied for fifth in West Virginia history with 215 made 3-pointers and fourth in history with 646 career attempts. She became the 30th player in WVU history and the 12th under coach Mike Carey to score 1,000 career points and finished her career with 1,097 points.
4. Janay Defended Ray on Instagram the Day After the Video Came Out
Janay spoke out on September 9, the day after TMZ published the elevator video, defending her husband against some of the media outcry and lashing out against people who criticized her husband and, in some cases, opined on her decision to stay with him.
Rice wrote in an Instagram post (above) saying she felt like she was “mourning the death” of her closest friend. She took aim at the media for publishing the video and said that “no one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family.”
5. The Ravens Orchestrated a Press Conference at Which Ray & Janay Both Spoke
Even before the video’s release in September, the Ravens received intense criticism for their handling of the domestic violence case, which included orchestrating a press conference at which both Ray and Janay apologized for what they described as their roles in the incident.
After the TMZ video emerged, attention turned to a tweet the team sent on May 23.
The account, which was tweeting comments from both Ray and Janay, tweeted: “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”
The tweet was widely criticized at the time for perpetuating the notion that Janay was partially to blame for getting punched in the face. In light of the video, it re-entered the spotlight, and the team eventually deleted it on the same day that it terminated Rice’s contract.
— Nick O'Connor (@nickoconnor) September 8, 2014
Yup, this tweet is still up. "@Ravens May 23 Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident."
— Will DeBoard (@wdeboard) September 8, 2014
— Mark Warner (@markawarner) September 8, 2014
Janay said in the ESPN piece that she was following the Raven’s script that day, but that she owned her words:
Looking out over the media, I became angry, seeing all the people who had been covering this and adding to the story. I wanted to tell everyone what was really on my mind. When it was my turn to speak, I said I regretted my role in the incident. I know some people disagreed with me publicly apologizing. I’m not saying that what Ray did wasn’t wrong. He and I both know it was wrong. It’s been made clear to him that it was wrong. But at the same time, who am I to put my hands on somebody? I had already apologized to Ray, and I felt that I should take responsibility for what I did. Even though this followed the Ravens’ suggested script, I owned my words.
I also wanted to show people that I was supportive of Ray just like I’d always been. At that point, I felt very optimistic that this would soon be over. The video already was out there. OTAs were beginning. We were getting back to somewhat of a normal life. Ray was accepted into the pretrial diversion program that, once completed, would result in the dismissal of his charge. If anyone knows me they know, I never have and never will be with Ray because of what he can do for me. I stuck with Ray because I truly love him.