On Sept. 8, the world of sports was shocked by further escalation of the Ray Rice conflict.
Rice, the Baltimore Ravens running back, was indefinitely suspended by the NFL shortly after being cut from the Ravens. The story has made quite a bit of national news, and is reaching outside of the realm of devout football fans.
Rice was already suspended for two games, why the intensification? To answer these questions, it is important to understand the timeline in which these events unfolded.
On Feb. 15, 2014, Rice punched, knocked out, and dragged his fiancé at the time, Janay Palmer, inside of a casino elevator. On Feb. 19, TMZ released a video showing Rice dragging Palmer’s body out of the elevator and through the hallway. Rice was indicted on charges of aggravated assault on March 27, and pled guilty to this charge on May 1. His sentencing entailed a one-year program, upon which completion would lead to Rice’s felony charge being expunged.
On July 24, the NFL announced Rice’s two game suspension, and on August 28, it announced a new policy on domestic violence. The morning of Sept. 8, the same day Rice was suspended indefinitely, TMZ released the full video showing the events that unfolded inside the elevator. In this video, you can clearly see Rice and Palmer fighting, then Rice knocking her out in one devastating punch.
Now that this is out for the world to see on video, everyone — the league leaders included — can see what he did. Essentially, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth an indefinite suspension. For most morally and rationally minded people, this should throw up some red flags.
The NFL knew exactly what Rice had done, and they had their proof when he pled guilty. If the punishment for these actions is an indefinite suspension, why wasn’t he suspended immediately?
“I find it offensive that the NFL waited until the video came out to further punish Rice,” said Sterling Milner, a Wittenberg student and avid football fan. “It speaks towards the integrity of the league.”
A poor integrity at that; they were only willing to fully punish a player (a very good, high profile player) when a video would bring about bad publicity. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admits the league’s mistake, saying that “We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place.”
The league’s new domestic policy outlines this stance; whether the stance was strong before Rice is unclear. The policy is as follows: “Violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence, or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant.”
The league also cites that second offenses will be punished with a lifetime ban. The new, harsher consequences are great, as they should be. The idea of “consideration given to mitigating factors” is alarming, but we can only fight one battle at a time.
I don’t think anyone, the NFL itself included, agrees with the way that the NFL handled the situation. But at this point, their policy has been changed, the correct punishment issued, and we can move on to just enjoying football again.
But this issue is bigger than the NFL. Why was Rice’s punishment so lenient? For all intents and purposes, he got away with a slap on the wrist. No prison time, no felony record — is he really getting punished to the full extent of the law?
We are told time and time again that people get away with things because of who they are; it appears that this is just another example of this inequality. Fame trumped crime. With this sentiment in mind, we should really commend the NFL for taking the time and the flack to get it right; something the justice system clearly wasn’t willing to do.