DC Trawler

NFL’s Fumble: Ray Rice, Roger Goodell, and Domestic Violence

Derek Hunter Contributor
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Running back Ray Rice

I deplore domestic violence. I’ve had a couple of women in my life who have been victims of it and the men who perpetrated that violence are vile, worthless piles of human flesh who will improve the world immeasurably upon their deaths.

That’s why I was so disgusted by when the news that Ray Rice had knocked his then fiancé (now wife), Jenay Palmer, unconscious was so disgusting to me. I didn’t take it personally, but it was personal. If you have anyone in your family who’s gone through something similar, I suspect you feel the same way.

Rice’s original punishment, 2 games, seemed like getting away with it. His public apology was a good first step toward some redemption, but it also had its sincerity tainted by it being a necessity.

Still, only 2 games never seemed like enough.

When the video of Rice dragging Jenay’s limp body from the elevator and dropping her like a bag of rock salt surface on TMZ, there were still many people willing to accept his apology and punishment, giving him the benefit of the doubt. Some callers to my radio show (in Baltimore) speculated that she may have passed out, or fallen, or any number of other possibilities, and that Ray’s actions may have only played a small role in the “out of context” result that video showed. I wasn’t one of them.

Still, the Ravens and NFL stood by their decision and, by extension Ray Rice.

Today’s release of video from inside that elevator was a train barreling down the tracks everyone could see. We knew it was coming, that it would come out, but we couldn’t be prepared for just how violent and sickening it was.

After swatting at each other outside the elevator, the couple moved inside and continued to swipe. There is no audio, but we can all imagine.

Whatever was said doesn’t matter, no words justify what happened next.

They exchange what look like swings, the Jenay moves off the wall – taking one step toward Rice. Rice then unleashes a vicious left hook, knocking Jenay off her feet, smashing her head into the railing of the elevator car. At this point she is out-cold on the floor. Rice does not immediately tend to her, he just stands over limp body. The door opens, and he drags her out and drops her on the floor like a bag of Quikrete.

A plea deal that involves counseling, no time? Not even a weekend? Only 2 games?

Today, after the release of that video, Ray Rice was fired by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL. But, other than actually being able to see him knock her out, changed between their original ruling and today? Nothing.

The NFL failed miserably to do the right thing months ago when they had the chance. They could have set a marker, drawn a line in the sand and made it unequivocally clear that hitting a woman is unacceptable by seriously punishing Ray Rice from the get-go. They didn’t.

Maybe they thought the video would never be released, or maybe they didn’t know just how violent an attack it was. Whatever the reason, it’s not a reason at all – it’s an excuse.

Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner, knew he’d dropped the ball and soon changed the punishments the league would hand out if any player were involved in an incidence of domestic violence – 6 games for a first offense, a lifetime ban for a second.

But Goodell’s ex-post facto actions only served to highlight the ease with which Rice was treated in the first place. The justified disgust people felt over Rice’s light punishment grew and grew, exploding upon seeing the new video.

The NFL was forced to act again, suspending Rice indefinitely today. That’s a hollow action, a day late and a dollar short. The Ravens, who also could have acted more severely and sooner, fired Rice today, freeing him to sign with any other team But what NFL team would sign him right now? None. At least none who doesn’t want the worst easily avoidable, self-inflicted PR disaster in history.

Rice will eventually return to the NFL, some team will sign him. I don’t have a problem with that. Him confessing in a contrite way, not the coy way he has, and truly seeking forgiveness from those who looked up to him would go a long way toward that. I do think he needs to be honest and forthcoming about that night, and I will always think of him in that elevator whenever I hear his name. But he does deserve a chance at redemption at some point. What he does with it, and whether he earns it between now and when it’s afforded him, is entirely up to him. He can be a model of how a fallen man can redeem himself; or he can be a cautionary tale. The choice is his.

But the NFL, in their failure to take the concept of domestic violence seriously in the first place, to fumble this so badly, is not made up for by their actions since. Suspending Rice indefinitely is not so much a punishment for Rice – no team was going to sign him tomorrow or anytime soon – it is a “cover your ass” moment from a Commissioner running a league desperate to appeal to female fans.

Roger Goodell was presented with a tap-in putt opportunity to show the NFL will not tolerate violence against women, and he kicked the ball. His actions since, in both stiffening the penalty for the future and revising the punishment for Rice, only serve to highlight his failure of leadership in the first place.

Rice needs to sit, Goodell needs to go.