By: Henry Walsh, Sports Analyst
On February 15th 2014, a star player in the NFL permanently redefined his legacy. In the Revel Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, then Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice brutally beat his fiancée Janay Palmer. Both Rice and the NFL, in the events following the original incident 6 months ago and the recently released video of the incident, have received immense criticism for the handling of the case.
The NFL, with all of its faults, has an especially big problem with the Ray Rice case. Not only did it take nearly seven months for Rice to have his contract terminated and be given an indefinite suspension for his actions, but the NFL also launched a full scale cover up in order to protect one of their star players. The Ravens went so far as to send out a tweet that puts some of the blame on the victim, Janay Palmer.
The tweet, sent May 23rd 2014 at 3:10 PM, read: “Janay Rice (Janay and Ray had gotten married March 28th) says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident”. The role she played? Which role? The one where she was used as a human punching bag or the one where her unconscious body was pulled out of the elevator and then dropped on her face. The Ravens tried, and failed, to cover up the fact that their star player knocked out his fiancée.
The NFL brushed it off as a trivial situation when they only handed Rice a two game suspension on July 25, 2014, roughly 1/9th of the original suspension Josh Gordon got for smoking marijuana. When the video showing the actual knockout punch was leaked via TMZ, the NFL and the Ravens knew they could no longer brush this situation under the rug.
Within less than 12 hours Ray Rice was unemployed and suspended indefinitely. The NFL finally did the right thing, just 6 weeks too late. The cover up was a disgusting attempt by to save one single player. Regardless, the original decision to hand down a 2-game suspension has received overwhelming backlash.
The NFL quickly added a new domestic violence policy to their rulebook, confirming an automatic 6 game suspension for first-time offenders, August 21st. The second time it happens, the player is banned permanently from the NFL. Yet nothing changed with Rice’s punishment until September 8th. This lack of punishment is not only Goodell’s fault, but also the fault of the Ravens and Rice himself. The Ravens, as Rice’s employer, could have immediately gone above the original 2-game suspension or Rice could have suspended himself.
Goodell, when trying to decide on what punishment to give Rice, interviewed Palmer but had Rice present in the room. Did he really expect her to say something along the lines of: “Yes, Mr. Commissioner, I was knocked out cold by my husband Ray,” risking another attack? This was a classic case of the NFL being able to say they interviewed her without worrying about hearing what they did not want to hear. The Ravens also were trying to get away with it, as they were counting on a 2-game suspension.
When they realized they could no longer get away with letting Rice off easily, they cut him. At the same time, the owner of the team, Steve Bisciotti, wrote a letter to the fans of the Ravens with the cliched theme “we let you down”. What Mr. Bisciotti doesn’t address is the fact that he didn’t just let the Ravens fans down, he let all of America down. He had a beautiful opportunity to correct what the NFL failed to do, sending a message to not only other NFL players, but to the whole country. By not taking a stand, the NFL and Ravens both let America down.
This Ray Rice incident is also not just an isolated case. San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald was arrested August 31st for felony domestic violence. His court date is September 15th, but even with the case pending, he was able to play September 7th.
Another incident is Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy. Hardy was convicted of domestic violence in July, and to no surprise, the NFL and Mr. Goodell let him play in his last game. The NFL clearly does not hold the problem of domestic violence highly, inevitably promoting a culture of misogynism instead.
The last straw came Wednesday afternoon, when it was revealed by the Associated Press that a member of law enforcement gave an NFL executive the Rice video nearly five months ago. In those five months, the NFL had ample time to act on the incident, but in that time, all they gave was a two game suspension. If the report is indeed true, Goodell would have to resign or face joblessness at the hands of the 32 NFL owners. Other NFL executives would have to go, including NFL senior vice president Adolpho Birch and executive Jeff Pash.
If the Ravens saw the video there must be a full firing of all personnel that saw the video and did not speak out. That group would most notably include Team President Dick Cass and General Manager/ Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome just to name a few. Birch, back in late July, went so far as to go on record and say that he agrees with the two game suspension and doesn’t think it should have been longer. Simply because the Ravens administration felt two games for a man who knocked his fiancée out cold is only deserving of missing just 1/9th of the NFL season, all of these men should be fired or resign regardless.
The NFL absolutely needs to be held accountable. They attempted a cover up instead of confronting this issue head-on and making this a learning point for the players and fans. Ray Rice should have immediately been banned from the NFL for life for his heinous crime against women worldwide.