It appears Ravens running back Ray Rice got away with (apparently) knocking out his then-fiancée Janay Palmer, as seen in a February video sports fans viewed many times whether online, on Sports Center, the NFL Network or TMZ. The NFL commissioner saw the same video so what happened to the apparent iron fist that’s supposed to be the NFL?
The same league that is quick to suspend a player four games for smoking pot, or half a season for violating its performance enhancing drug policy, or five games for stomping on another player during a play, decides to suspend a player all of just two games for knocking out his significant other.
Yes, you read that right; the iron fist wielded by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell barely scratched Ray Rice for his part in a domestic dispute with his then-fiancée and now-wife.
And what was the response from the Ravens fans?
The over 25,000 fans at M&T Bank Stadium at the Ravens open practice loudly cheered for Rice whenever Rice had a carry or when he was shown on the scoreboard. It seemed as if Rice was the victim of the incident rather than the perpetrator. Those 25,000 included men, women and their children, cheering for the same man that knocked out his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City hotel elevator.
Sure, there are probably two sides to the story and maybe she also assaulted as well him before they left the elevator, but is there any reason that can justify hitting and knocking out your fiancée, or your wife, forcing you to drag them out of an elevator?
Some people continue to say we don’t know what happened in the Ray Rice case. Tell me then, why is he in a year-long treatment program? — Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) July 29, 2014
While what Rice did was wrong and he seems to be taking the appropriate actions going forward, Commissioner Goodell completely slipped up on this. He’s given several season-long suspensions during his tenure including Donte Stallworth for DUI manslaughter in 2009, Sean Payton for his role in the Saints’ pay-for-play scandal and is expected to suspend Browns wideout Josh Gordon for his repeat violations of the league’s drug policy.
So in a time where Goodell is trying to continue to make a name for himself in the NFL as the toughest NFL commissioner in league history, why would he only give Rice a mere, slap-on-the-wrist, two-game suspension?
Six years ago, Goodell suspended Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones for four games for fighting his own bodyguard. Nobody was arrested and nobody was charged in that incident, however Goodell said to reporters then:
“Adam knows how much emphasis I put on making sure that he makes good choices going forward, that he avoids situations where he can reflect poorly on himself, the Cowboys or the NFL.”
While Ray Rice is no Adam Jones as far as off-the-field issues are concerned, Goodell made a huge mistake in giving him the easy way out. The only message a two-game suspension for domestic violence sends to the rest of the NFL is that they can get away with it. A two-week suspension to an NFL player, especially one of Rice’s stature in the league, is technically the equivalent of a timeout to a six-year old, or a pre-teen being grounded for the weekend.
The NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy clearly states that “it is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard.”
Professional athletes are supposed to be held to a higher standard, and usually get away with a lot more than someone in the general public. Conviction rates for pro athletes are surprisingly low, despite the large number of arrests. We as the fans by our support, along with the leagues and teams continued tolerance, justify their wrongful actions.
An observation as the NFL continues to dig itself a deeper hole w/Ray Rice case: Hire some smart, qualified women. Trust me, it would help.
— Kate Scott (@katetscott) July 28, 2014
Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s senior VP of Labor Policy, defended the league’s light suspension on ESPN radio on Monday, saying that “I think it is absolutely clear to all involved that the NFL does not condone domestic violence in any way and will not tolerate it in our league. I don’t know how you can reach a conclusion other than that.”
Here’s what the conclusion should have been: Rice should have been given at least a four-game suspension, without pay. He needed to be punished properly for what he did and the NFL missed a huge opportunity to take a strong, definitive stand against off-the-field issues like domestic violence.
Now the bar has been set and the NFL will have to deal with upcoming domestic violence cases in a similar fashion. Other players involved in such cases will also appeal for no more than a two-game suspension whenever the league tries to give longer suspensions.
So in the end since Ray Rice got away with it, why can’t everyone else?