Yesterday was the first Sunday of the NFL season. ESPN, Mad Dog Radio, and other sports based TV and radio shows around the nation would like to open with any one of a dozen story lines. The Eagles scoring 34 unanswered points to comeback and beat the Jaguars, the Cowboys turnover fest against the 49ers, or the Bills OT upset on the road against the Bears are all fine examples of what we could be talking about. It’s all getting pushed off the front page because of a video.
One of the story lines that unfolded during my month hiatus from this blog was Ray Rice’s suspension. In February of this year video was leaked of Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiance(now wife) from an elevator in an Atlantic City Casino. If you haven’t seen the video the original video, it can be found here.
There was a great deal of debate about what happened inside the elevator. Until today the footage from that camera was kept secret. It was reported at the time by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Ravens Officials had seen the unreleased footage and it was taken into account when deciding Ray Rice’s punishment of two games. The light sentence has been denounced from every media outlet and the vast majority of fans.
One of the few reasonable defenses of the punishment was that we didn’t know what happened in the elevator. If the fiance attacked him first, he shoved her away, and her head hit the elevator at the wrong angle when both of them were already heavily inebriated, then perhaps the two game suspension was justified. It seemed like a stretch, but if the NFL had seen the video and only given him two games and both Ray Rice and his fiance were charged with aggravated assault then surely there must be something we didn’t know.
It is unclear right now how it was leaked but the footage from inside the elevator has been released. If you don’t want to start your Monday with a video of domestic violence I completely understand, but here is a link to an article that includes the full video. It is quite clear that after they get into the elevator he initiates the physical contact by hitting her and spitting in her face, she then lunges towards him, and he slams her head into the side of the elevator.
It makes the plea deal that was offered to him by the court system and the suspension from the NFL look like the most heinous kind of ridiculous. The NFL has released a statement saying, “We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today.” I personally find that statement tough to believe and I’ll side with Peter King’s reporting over the NFL trying to cover its ass. It also seems odd that TMZ was able to obtain a copy of it if the NFL really had it withheld from them.
The only positive thing to come out of this is that the outrage after the two game suspension was announced has prompted the NFL to change its policy on domestic abuse. It is now a mandatory 6 game suspension on a first offense and a lifetime ban from the league for a second offense. This change in policy will be put to the test soon. A rookie practice squad player on the Jets and a defensive tackle on the 49ers have both been arrested for domestic abuse in the last two weeks. Obviously there is a difference between being arrested for something and being convicted for it, but the NFL has not required convictions to enact discipline in the past. Ben Roethlisberger’s six game suspension in 2010 when he wasn’t even charged with rape is a prime example.
Plenty of people have criticized the stricter domestic abuse policy because it seems the NFL only changed it because people were angry, not because they actually feel remorse over a bad decision or care for their players especially when it comes to other serious crimes like DUIs. Considering there are players playing in the NFL now who have killed other NFL players in DUI crashes(Josh Brent still plays for the Cowboys, it’s easy to see the point that the NFL’s punishment system as a whole needs revamping. It’s good that the NFL is changing, but a little proactive work as opposed to simply being responsive would be nice. An ounce of prevention equaling a pound of cure and what not.
As far as the NFL rules go, I don’t think the league can go back and amend the penalty since it has already been handed down. The Ravens organization does still have power though. The team didn’t punish him at all, everything came down from the league and teams are allowed to add punishment on top of what the NFL issues even though they usually don’t. The Ravens could choose to cut him or to suspend him for the remainder of the season.
I’m guessing the Ravens might add four games to the suspension. It would make Rice’s total suspension equal to the 6 games now required for first time offenders. I would be surprised if they do anything more serious because Ray Rice makes that football team a lot of money, and that is the issue that really lies at the heart of most of this. If you are a rich celebrity in this country your justice system is separate and not equal.
If the Ravens really do add to the suspension and make it six games, and I’m not saying they will, then Ray Rice’s first game back would come in the middle of October, a month the NFL has set aside for several years now to raise breast cancer awareness by having their players wear pink gear like gloves and shoes. To have Ray Rice’s first football game this season be in gear designed by the NFL to show women in this country that the NFL cares about them would certainly make the NFL’s real motives in such matters crystal clear.
As always, questions, comments, and criticisms are welcome. Answers are guaranteed.