Did the NFL drop the ball?

Before continuing to read this article, I would request that you watch the following video:


The above event took place on Feb. 15, 2014, and the perpetrator  is confirmed to be Baltimore Ravens’ pro-football player Ray Rice, who  committed this act of violence on his fiancee – as she was then – Janay Palmer. Rice and Palmer had an argument, and then Rice, a man who can bench press 400 pounds, smacked her. He smacked her hard enough for her to hit the side of the elevator and be knocked unconscious. In the video he seemed to show no remorse or delicacy in how he handled her afterwards; at one point, he even used his feet to adjust her prone position, and at another point, he stopped to pick up her shoe – rather than fully devote himself to taking care of her. On Feb. 19, a video was released of Rice dragging Palmer out of the elevator. In that video there was no incriminating evidence that linked Rice to the state Palmer was in – when she came out of that elevator.

Rice and Palmer got married on March 28th in a ceremony closed to the public. The marriage was ahead of their plans for a wedding in the summer; no explanation was provided. The timing of the ceremony seemed more strategic than romantic.

On May 23rd, Rice and Palmer held a press conference, at which time Rice attempted to apologize for his actions. Below in the bibliography, you can find the full recording and transcript of the conference.
To begin, Mr. Rice stated that:

“I want to first off apologize to [owner] Steve Bisciotti, [general manager and executive vice president] Ozzie Newsome and [head] coach [John] Harbaugh, and I also want to apologize to my fans, to the kids, to everyone who was affected by this situation that me and my wife were in.”

His first priority was to apologize to his superiors, and he even offered a blanket apology to “everyone who was affected by this situation that me and my wife were in,” yet at no point directly apologizes to his wife. At several points throughout his apology, he had to refer to his phone, explaining himself with “sorry, just want to hit on everything,” and reminding us all that this was a prepared speech, not a truly heartfelt message. He even had the callousness to refer to what happened as “this thing [that] happened with me and my wife.” Smacking a person you love into a wall so hard that they black out should not be referred to as an everyday “thing.”

On July 24th, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell served Rice a two game suspension. On August 27th, in a separate incident, Cleveland Browns player Josh Gorden was suspended for a year* for smoking marijuana. Now, consider that each NFL team plays 16 games in a season. According to the NFL policy of that time, Rice knocking his fiance out stone cold was 1/8th, just  a mere 12.5%, the crime that Gordon committed in smoking a substance while not causing another person any harm.
Fortunately, the NFL has revised its domestic violence policies, with first time offenders being banned from 6 games, and second time offenders being banned for life; however, a player can apply for re-reinstatement after a year. On Sept. 8, the full video of the incident was released. The Ravens immediately terminated their contract with Rice, and afterwards, Commissioner Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely from the NFL. Commissioner Goodell has asserted that the NFL had not seen the video until the public saw it on that date. Now, an investigation has been launched to determine the validity of the Goodell’s statement; of all things, the NFL should definitely have seen the video prior to deciding on the light punishment for Rice.

*Josh Gordon’s suspension has now been reduced to 10 games.

Among all this, Janay has come to Ray’s defense, and this statement from her on Instagram evokes some shame upon my part for seemingly interfering in their family matter. Yet, the fact that they are public figures who acted in public domain, will not change the fact that Ray’s behavior was not legal and should not be tolerated. No words from Janay will alter the actions that Ray took in a public setting, nor that he is a public figure who should leading by example.

Rather than focusing on this specific incidence, we should pay attention to the problem beyond Rice. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline,

“1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime”

Contrast this with the fact that 1 in 8 is “the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer during her life,” according to cancer.org. People go out of their way to beat twice as many women as the number of women that contract breast cancer. Instead of hosting the fundraisers, wearing the ribbons and having the awareness runs that we do for breast cancer, as a society, we send messages like these for victims of domestic violence:

“I think the message is: take the stairs.”
“The message is, when you are in an elevator, there is a camera.”
– Fox Host Brian Kilmeade, and  Co-host Steve Doocey

Furthermore, we promote messages such as:

Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) May 23, 2014

The Ravens twitter account live-tweeted the message during the May 23rd conference, which has now since been taken down.

Domestic violence is an issue that we can’t brush aside. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline,

“Immediately following the release of video [of Ray Rice]… the Hotline’s call volume increased by 84% and has remained higher than normal with spikes happening after each new report about domestic violence charges against NFL players. As the controversies continue, the Hotline has been unable to answer nearly 50 percent of the calls, chats and texts.”

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey has introduced a bill, which he states will “help ensure that victims of domestic violence have the resources they need to break away from abusers and begin rebuilding their lives,” by seeking to rid the NFL and other sports leagues of their tax exempt statuses, and to use the taxes collected from them (the taxes collected from the NFL’s offices alone could be to the tune of $100 million) to fund domestic violence awareness programs. However, this bill seeks to deal with the aftermath of incidences; we need to work to prevent domestic violence in the first place. If schools can have the mandatory D.A.R.E. program for awareness of using drugs, and the growing up program to allow kids to understand the transition of adolescence, then schools should have programs to teach kids what domestic violence is, and why it is wrong. The take-away from this should not be that we should be by-standers in this matter; we should not be members of the crowd cheering on this behavior. As a public, and for our future generations, we must address this problem not only with reform in our policy, but awareness in our community, as well as support for organizations and public figures taking a stand in this matter.

“Ray Rice’s Full Press Conference .” News RSS. N.p., 23 May 2014. Web. 26 Sept. 2014. <http://www.baltimoreravens.com/videos/videos/Ray-Rices-Full-Press-Conference/405fea46-d4d4-44c7-b381-33497bf6d12f>.

“Ray Rice Press Conference Transcript .”News RSS. N.p., 23 May 2014. Web. 26 Sept. 2014. <http://www.baltimoreravens.com/news/article-1/Ray-Rice-Presser-Transcript/83b169fd-d577-4fba-a413-93acaf4aace3>.

Bien, Louis. “A complete timeline of the Ray Rice assault case.” SBNation.com. N.p., 15 Sept. 2014. Web. 26 Sept. 2014. <http://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2014/5/23/5744964/ray-rice-arrest-assault-statement-apology-ravens>.

“How many women get breast cancer?.”How many women get breast cancer?. N.p., 17 Sept. 2013. Web. 26 Sept. 2014. <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/overviewguide/breast-cancer-overview-key-statistics>.

“Domestic Violence Statistics.” The National Domestic Violence Hotline RSS2. N.p., 19 Sept. 2014. Web. 24 Sept. 2014. <http://www.thehotline.org/2014/09/national-domestic-violence-hotline-receives-long-term-commitment-of-resources-from-national-football-league/>.

Perez, A.J.. “Cory Booker among two U.S. Senators seeking to yank the NFL’s tax-exempt status.” NJ.com. N.p., 16 Sept. 2014. Web. 26 Sept. 2014. <http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/09/cory_booker_among_two_us_senators_seeking_to_yank_the_nfls_tax-exempt_status.html>.


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