We understand why Janay Rice would stay with Ray, say wives of ex-NFL players

The wives of four former NFL players spoke with TODAY's Jenna Wolfe about the situation involving Ray Rice and his wife and what they feel is a misperception about the lives of NFL families.
From left to right: Melani Ismail, Michelle Rivera, Mioshi Johnson and Dawn Neufled.Today

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By Scott Stump

The wives of four former NFL players, including a personal friend of Ray Rice and his wife, believe there is a misunderstanding about the lives of NFL families among the public, and say they understand why Janay Rice decided to stay with her husband after the assault that resulted in his indefinite suspension from the league. 

"I don't think it's too hard for me to understand why Janay would stay with Ray after everything we've seen,'' Dawn Neufeld, wife of former NFL tight end Ryan Neufeld, told TODAY's Jenna Wolfe. "My mother stayed with someone who was abusive for over 10 years, and I think women stay with abusers for many, many reasons."

"Thank goodness I was not in a situation to make that choice, but I think I would probably end up being one to stay, because you assume that role,'' explained Michelle Rivera, wife of former NFL offensive lineman Marco Rivera. "You're there to support, and you uphold the image that you feel is necessary for your family." 

Janay Rice defended her husband in an Instagram post on Tuesday, calling the situation "a horrible nightmare" and writing, "If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you've succeeded on so many levels." 

From left to right: Melani Ismail, Michelle Rivera, Mioshi Johnson and Dawn Neufled.Today

More from the four women:

  • Mioshi Johnson, wife of Rice's former Ravens teammate, Chris Johnson, on how the Rices are faring: "I do know Ray and Janay very well. They are good friends of mine and my husband, Chris. They're just feeling very ostracized. Like, you're not helping. Everybody is continually making us relive this when we're trying to heal and grow from this. So where's the help? Where's the support?" 

  • Johnson, on the shock of the assault: "I would definitely say it was out of character for both of them. They are not violent people. They are very loving, doting over each other, over their daughter." 

  • Melani Ismail, wife of former NFL wide receiver Raghib Ismail, on how NFL wives are often viewed: "I think the first word that comes to mind is that we're gold diggers, and that we don't have a true love for our husbands, and we're just in it for the money or in it for the fame or whatever. The money comes and goes, and there is no amount of money that could even touch the injuries and the heartache and all the things that go with the NFL. It's a very, very difficult business. It's not just the man. It's his wife, his children and everybody associated with him." 

  • Ismail, on Ray Rice's future: "He doesn't have to remain a bad guy. He needs some help. You know, it was wrong what happened." 

  • Neufeld, on the NFL: "I do believe the NFL mishandled this situation tremendously. The NFL can figure out who draft picks or potential draft picks are dating, what their grades are in school, but they couldn't find this video. I think that's troubling." 

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