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Marshall Challenges the Ravens' Stance

Alex Schierholtz/flickr

For three years now, the Ravens have been model citizens on the subject of domestic violence, assiduously avoiding any player who had a direct connection to inflicting hurt on a woman or child.

The video of former running back Ray Rice that surfaced in the spring of 2014 and the fallout that followed pretty much ensured that team owner Steve Bischiotti would be highly circumspect bordering on hostile about any player carrying that baggage.

But Bischiotti and his brain trust have a potentially significant challenge to their stance, namely a pressing need and a player with domestic violence issues who could fill that need.

Brandon Marshall, who was just released by the New York Jets, is a six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver.

At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Marshall would give quarterback Joe Flacco with a big reliable target, something neither Flacco nor the Ravens, for that matter, have had in years.

And, for Marshall, the Ravens would represent stability and a chance to win, something he hasn’t seen much in an 11-year career, spread between stops in Denver, Chicago, Miami and New York.

The stars would seem to be perfectly aligned, save for those domestic violence charges.

Marshall has been involved, by one media outlet’s count, in nine domestic violence incidents, dating back to 2006, before his rookie season. Charges were dropped in a number of the cases and he was acquitted in others and he was never convicted.

Nonetheless, the NFL suspended Marshall for three games in 2008, but reduced the suspension to one game and fined him $52,353, which, at the time, was one week’s pay.

Marshall has revealed that he suffers from borderline personality disorder. Despite his ailment, he is a regular panelist on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL.”

In addition, and perhaps more importantly, Marshall has become a vocal advocate for more aid for victims of domestic violence as well as a spokesman for greater mental health awareness.

Marshall has not been involved in a domestic violence incident in nearly five years. His supporters might say that he has made a very successful second act of his life, both on and off the field.

But the Ravens and Bisciotti have seen this movie before. Before his incident, Rice was a model citizen, and, in the months since, he has worked tirelessly to atone for what the world saw in the that horrific video.

Unlike Marshall, Rice has not gotten a second act in football. No team has picked him up. That may be as much about Rice’s age, 30, which is youthful in any other circumstance than being an NFL running back, as to a less permissive NFL attitude regarding domestic violence.

Indeed, the league is trying to get it right about domestic violence, but it’s men like Steve Bisciotti, men who own teams and sign paychecks, who will decide what face the NFL presents to battered women.

There are, to be sure, other teams besides the Ravens deciding whether to sign Brandon Marshall, but those teams are likely interested in what he does as a football player.

The Ravens and Steve Bisciotti have to be concerned about Brandon Marshall the man. And they have to get it right.

And that’s how I see it for this week. 

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.