STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
It isn’t rare for celebrities, particularly professional athletes, to be under fire for their conduct off the field.
What isn’t quite so common is for a league itself to be under such scrutiny for its conduct with punishing those wrongdoers.
For those of you who don’t know, the former Baltimore Raven and All-Pro running back Ray Rice, was suspended in July for the first two games of the 2014 season. For what? Brutally assaulting his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, knocking her unconscious in a hotel elevator.
The incident took place in February in Atlantic City, brought to light by a video showing Rice dragging her limp body out of the elevator, making it obvious what he had done. This past week, however, TMZ sports released a hotel surveillance video surfaced showing the attack in its entirety.
Once the second video surfaced, the Ravens promptly released their star running back from the team and the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely from the NFL.
According to Rice, the league had the full story back when it broke at the end of last season, and they still punished him lightly. Only being suspended for two games for knocking out his fiancée seems underwhelming, but it was the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision.
Apparently, actually seeing video of what happened turned both Rice’s team and the league from being lenient to essentially ending his career. The fact that the league needed the video to be made public shows a lapse in judgment.
The most troubling piece of the story is that there is evidence that the league received a copy of the full video back in April, but didn’t take action until TMZ made the second video public.
The NFL tried to save face by toughening its sentence now, but it is clear that they would have preferred if the whole incident had blown over. Claims have been made that they never received the video or, at the very least, Goodell never saw it. Even if this claim is true, it doesn’t excuse its drastic change of policy.
The NFL’s lack of professionalism in this matter doesn’t excuse Rice’s actions, but it does set a precedent for future situations. Yes, every case is different and should be treated as such, but the gap between a two game suspension and an indefinite one is way too large given the developments.
The NFL needs stricter, clearer guidelines for domestic abuse issues.
Some claim that Rice is getting special treatment from the authorities for getting off without jail-time. Rice has been assigned to attend anger-management courses and has been complying every step of the way since the incident. Less than one percent of those convicted with similar charges in the same jurisdiction as Rice have received the diverted anger-management course.
What should be mentioned is that Janay Rice stated their relationship has moved past the incident and that both parties publicly regret what happened that night.
This doesn’t excuse Rice’s actions, but if the two are being honest, then perhaps it is a sign of him changing his ways and actually reforming. Perhaps the league should take that into account when reviewing the suspension.
Rice’s actions are dreadful. He is trying to amend them. It is also his first offense. The NFL, on the other hand, has dealt inconsistent punishments in the past. This isn’t the first time a media hurricane has occurred around a Baltimore Raven. Ray Lewis obstructed justice in a murder case where he was accused of being involved in and got off without any charges or suspensions.
Of course, Rice needs to exhibit pristine behavior in the future to have any shot at playing football professionally again, but the NFL needs to take measures to deter and prevent this from happening again, and to have set strict policies if this were to happen in the future.