A Major Fumble By The NFL

tt23b.jpgBaltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice crossed the line. This time it wasn’t in a moment of athletic glory but one of personal shame. I'm referring to the incident of domestic violence that Mr. Rice committed against his now wife in Atlantic City this past February. The despicable videotape which surfaced showing him pulling her from an elevator, seemingly lifeless, left me disgusted. However, what has infuriated me is the callousness of the NFL's response to this terrible act.

Let me back up. There are at least two fundamentally disturbing issues associated with this case. The first is one of character that Ray Rice must answer. We ALL make mistakes. Everyone. But when it comes to physical violence against the opposite sex, you haven't just crossed the line of acceptable behavior, you’ve jumped over it. Simple question: What if someone like him had hit someone you care about? Your mother? Sister or aunt? It’s frightening especially because Ray Rice would physically intimidate many men, but a woman? Rice, a Rutgers graduate, three-time Pro Bowler and by some accounts a “nice guy,” has some enormous soul searching to do about the nature of who he is and why he allowed himself to act in such a despicable manner. I hope and pray that he does.

The second issue is of a larger social context than Rice’s actions. That issue, as I stated earlier, is that the NFL acted with shocking leniency to his actions. Women are enthusiastic supporters of America’s most popular sport. Recent statistics have shown that the female demographic is one of the fastest growing segments of the NFL's fan base. The Ray Rice suspension sends an uncomfortable signal to its female fan base that while your money is good to the NFL, the NFL will tolerate those who physically abuse you. What kind of message are we sending? That domestic violence (two game suspension) in the NFL's disciplinary eyes is less egregious than taken a substance that is legal in the "real world" but falls on the league's banned list (four game suspension)? This reinforcement of Neanderthal behavior by a multiple billion dollar organization is shameful.

Look, I love to watch football. However, as a husband and father of a daughter, the NFL’s boorishness towards women exhibited by their handling of the Rice incident disgusts me. They could have done more, and they SHOULD have done much more. I don’t represent the NFL, but I do represent the 7th legislative district in New Jersey and have taken a consistent and strong stand to eradicate domestic violence. I have sponsored Lisa’s Law (a pilot program that would track perpetrators of domestic violence who violate parole and warn victims of their assailant’s proximity) and other notification issues for victims of domestic violence. I have fought for more money in our state budget to support domestic violence shelters and support groups. Fighting for these priorities are intensely personal to me and I won't apologize for my advocacy. That is why the NFL needs to WAKE UP!

The NFL has been an almost untouchable force when it comes to popularity in our country. However, I believe they are in danger of a severe backlash, as women and men become more outraged by the leniency of this suspension. When it comes to domestic violence, we all need to start thinking of a zero tolerance approach. Love shouldn't hurt. And, it shouldn't get you a pass because you play on Sundays. That's my take. What's yours?

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  • Troy E. Singleton
    commented 2014-08-28 15:12:47 -0400
    The followers of this page know that I was critical of the NFL in the wake of it’s decision to suspend Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice for only two games after his domestic violence incident. I am glad that they realized the error of their ways moving forward and have enacted a policy of discipline more conducive to the act. #EndDomesticViolence

  • Crystal C. Thomas
    commented 2014-08-04 10:52:25 -0400
    (The web page is turning all my first letters into capitals for some reason)

    I agree with the opinions and comments of Stephen Hightower. I am truly disappointed in the actions of Ray Rice myself, being a Baltimore Ravens fan. Ray is the last person on that roster that anyone would have thought would have done something like this. Let’s hope that he hasn’t fooled the whole world into thinking he is someone (a good guy) that he is not.

    But onto the reactions of the public to Roger Goodell’s punishment. I, for one, thought he took so long to make a decision because he was deciding whether to do anything at all. Like Mr Hightower said, the NFL is a business with business interests. It is NOT a device for correcting society. That is the sole job of the legal system. When punishments are handed out for performing-enhancing drug use, that is their business because it affects the game directly. When an illegal hit happens, that is their business as well. This incident was an intimate incident between a man and a woman – a domestic event. Something private, not to be judged by people outside of the two individuals involved. If she is not “outraged”, then why are we? And why would Roger Goodell? If she felt she needed help, restraint, or retribution, she is the one that is responsible for requesting it or demanding it. WE may not approve of his actions, but it is not up to us to approve of them. It is the victim’s place only – and the job of the legal system to apply punishment as it deems necessary. They Did just that. Again, we may not approve, but take all of this “clutch-My-Pearls” level of outrage to the justice system…or Janay Rice. I even heard one sports radio show say they were outraged that the Ravens organization did not make the punishment first, even before the League did. Again, nonsense. Their job is NOT to make some political statement on “goodness” and “morality”. They are a business as well.

    Why are people so outraged at the businesses that employ this man? Because they did not "make a stand against domestic abuse by “tarring and feathering” Ray Rice when neither his wife not the legal system seemed to bat an eye?

    Think about this: The people who know ALL the facts (the League, the justice system, and Janay Rice) are the ones who are most lenient on him. Only those of us on the outside looking in are full of indignance. May be we should just all let this go, like his wife did, since we obviously don’t know the story, regardless of what a short video surveillance tape implies.
  • Stephen Hightower
    commented 2014-07-31 19:53:32 -0400
    I’ll begin to tell you how I feel by quoting you in a statement you made in your opening paragraph. “I’m referring to the incident of domestic violence that Mr. Rice committed against his now wife in Atlantic City this past February.” His what? Does that say “now wife”? Does this mean that this hurt victim of domestic violence actually went on to marry this despicable, abusive, Neanderthal, to paraphrase you if I may? Where is your outrage belittling and attacking her for her decision? Have you spoken with her? Maybe she could have used your statistics before she tied the knot. Maybe your political grandstanding could have saved her from making the tragic mistake of marrying such a monster.

    To clarify, the victim punished the “despicable” act by later marrying the Neanderthal who drug her “seemingly lifeless” body from the elevator.

    Let’s move on to the bigger question. Legally, what would a representative of a legislative district in any state do? A representative that has taken a consistent and strong stand to eradicate domestic violence. One that may have sponsored any law like Lisa’s Law (a pilot program that would track perpetrators of domestic violence who violate parole and warn victims of their assailant’s proximity) and other notification issues for victims of domestic violence; one that has fought for more money in a state budget to support domestic violence shelters and support groups. What legally would that representative do? More importantly, what did the law do? What was Mr. Rice’s sentence via the legal system for committing this seemingly heinous act of domestic violence?

    If I’m not mistaking, he was accepted into a diversionary program that allowed him to avoid jail time and potentially get the charge expunged from his record. Here’s a question, in which “Troy Talk” blog might I find you outrage with the legal system as related to this case? I only ask because I am having an extremely difficult time finding it.

    Seeing the victim’s and legal system’s punishment, or lack thereof, for the crime, I wonder where your outrage has been.

    Instead, you choose to become “infuriated” by the “callousness of the NFL’s response to this terrible act”. Why must the NFL police society when it’s clear that victims and legal systems aren’t even willing to do so. The NFL is responsible for the NFL. They regulate and police their sport and league, and things that directly affect it, such as performance enhancing drugs. When the NFL suspends a player for an “illegal” hit or tackle, would that same offender be jailed or punished by the legal system if the move happened in a pick-up game at the park? The answer is no. Are people jailed or punished by the legal system for taking performance enhancing drugs, as they are in the NFL? Again, the answer is no. Why do you choose to confuse the governance of a league with the governance of society? Why do you choose to villainize the NFL for their punishment of an act that resulted in no tougher penalty in the “real world” as you put it?

    Speaking of the “real world”, does Ray Rice’s now wife have any brothers? A father? Male cousins? How did they deal with the incident? If they dealt with it correctly, all parties involved would have left the meeting with a very clear understanding.

    Let me be clear. I do not support domestic violence or what Ray Rice did. However, my toughest criticism would be reserved for him, the woman who later married him, and the legal system’s lack of penalty, not the NFL.

    To attack the NFL and label them their punishment “boorishness towards women”, when no other party involved did anything more, disgusts me. The NFL is a business and although businesses these days are villainized for being successful and profitable, that is any for profit businesses goal and bottom line. Ray Rice, like it or not, is a commodity. If the public shares your outrage over Ray Rice’s actions, I’m sure it will reflect in the sales of his merchandise, bottom line.

    I’m sure everybody knows how great you are, how caring you are, and how much you do for the betterment of humanity, but this attack on the NFL, as well as the retribution you call for, is misdirected and reads as nothing more than political grandstanding.

    That’s my take, let’s see how long it lasts.