Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice stood on the stage with a host of local and state leaders at an event called "A Ray of Hope." An advocate for anti-bullying, Rice delivered a message of kindness to a crowd of 5,000 people.
“I truly feel like it’s a crime if you back somebody into a corner and they feel defenseless,” Rice said in April 2013.
Ten months later, Rice is involved in domestic violence incident. He struck his fiancée with his hand, rendering her unconscious, according to a summons obtained by ESPN. A video obtained and posted online by TMZ on Wednesday shows Rice lifting the woman by her arms out of an elevator at an Atlantic City casino and laying her on the ground. Rice's attorney, Michael Diamondstein, told The Baltimore Sun that the footage is authentic but incomplete.
While an NFL player getting arrested is not shocking news, the fact that it was Rice certainly is. More than a Pro Bowl player, Rice built a wholesome image on being a hard worker, a charismatic speaker and a role model.
Rice was considered to be one of the least likely Ravens players to get arrested for assault. Fans grew accustomed to seeing him motivating children on a local news segment, not seeing him on a grainy security video. Over the years, Rice sported a milk mustache next to the mayor of Baltimore. He spoke at functions alongside the first lady of Maryland. He gave out $20 bills to kids for dancing and doing pushups in an effort to get the city's youth more fit.
Rice's ability to touch the community went beyond public appearances. He once autographed football paraphernalia for a deceased fan who wanted to be buried with it. He would call teammates from hospitals, so they could talk to people he was visiting there. He has been known to buy $70 video games for kids at stores and then autograph them.
"One thing I know about life is that you build an image for yourself," Rice said in September 2010. "I want to read my name in the books one day. I want to be one of the greatest. I want to be known as a guy who made it -- and gave back."
After six years of being one of the NFL's good guys, Rice has suffered a dramatic fall over the past week. He has been charged and arrested. He hasn't been convicted. But, based on the court of public opinion, Rice's once flawless reputation has been tarnished.
These are some posts about Rice on Twitter:
"Ray Rice is classless, that was a woman he was dragging, not a linebacker."
"He is no longer my hero."
"Wow seriously #rayrice? Dirt bag"
Rice has yet to comment since the incident. He usually posts daily on Twitter, but he hasn't put up anything new on his account (which has a half million followers) since Feb. 12.
General manager Ozzie Newsome told reporters Monday that Rice is still a big part of the team's plans in 2014, although he did say a final decision won't be made until he gets all of the answers. A Ravens spokesman said Wednesday that the team has seen the video and is gathering more information. The NFL will also review the case, and under its personal conduct policy, the league could discipline Rice with a fine or suspension even if he's not convicted.
Rice was scheduled to make an appearance for animal rights on Friday, but he has been replaced by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Local organizations and companies were attracted to Rice because of affable personality and strong character. He currently endorses M&T Bank, Gillette, Sheets energy strips, BodyArmor SuperDrink and Carbiz. Those deals reportedly earned him at least a half million last year. None have publicly broken their ties with Rice.
Diamondstein, Rice's lawyer, told The Baltimore Sun: "We just ask that the public remember what a high-character, good person Ray is, and that they reserve judgment until all the facts are out."
It's because of that high character that no one close to Rice ever envisioned him being in this situation, including the running back himself.
"I've seen some guys with the same dream as me, wanting to make it in the NFL, but they made one or two bad decisions in their life and that dream became a total nightmare," Rice said in May 2012.