Unnecessary roughness| Viral video, circulation, and proof in the Ray Rice case

by Elizabeth Grace Booker

Institution: The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Year: 2016
Keywords: Communication; Criminology; Web studies; Mass communication
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2071223
Full text PDF: http://pqdtopen.proquest.com/#viewpdf?dispub=10118020


The National Football League (NFL) is no stranger to criticism regarding their players and violence against women. One of the more publicized cases transpired following surveillance videos that surfaced 7 months apart from each other; the first depicting former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then fiancée unconscious in a casino elevator, and the second depicting Rice dragging her body out of the elevator. It was only after the second video surfaced that Rice lost his contract with the Baltimore Ravens and was suspended indefinitely from the NFL. The videos circulated in viral patterns within news, sport, and social media, raising questions regarding the NFL’s record on domestic violence issues and its integrity as an organization. Where cases of domestic violence are traditionally hidden, secretive, and private, this case exemplifies a collapse of those public/private dimensions and allowed the public to see what happened. Questions about circulation and the value of video evidence became central to the Rice case due to widespread presumptions that the NFL had the footage, and that it must have seen it before punishing Rice after the first video release. Throughout this thesis I argue that the Ray Rice case highlights the cultural parallels associated with professional athletes and crimes of domestic violence, that the prominence of surveillance video as a media form conditions specific expectations and desires, and that the Rice case demonstrates how viral videos can operate as an explicit form of proof in contemporary society.