By COLEMAN HOPKINS
A video surfaced last February of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice in an Atlantic City, N.J. casino repeatedly beating his girlfriend, Janay Palmer, and dragging her out of the casino by her hair.
In March of this year, Rice was indicted on third degree aggravated assault charges, which can result in a sentence of three to five years, only to marry Ms. Palmer the day after.
Rather than sending a crystalline message that this type of behavior is not tolerated, considering professional athletes have a responsibility to act in a particular manner since they are looked up to by many, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell only sentenced Mr. Rice to a two-game suspension.
In other cases, the NFL suspended an ex-collegiate quarterback from five games for soliciting autographs for tattoos while he was still in school. The NFL also suspended a player this year from four games for failing a drug test and testing positive for marijuana. These are just two examples of punishments consistent with Mr. Rice’s offense, according to Commissioner Goodell.
Players, commentators and fans alike all voiced opinions on the ruling, some in support and some against the punishment, though nearly all parties agreed that this decision was anything but consistent with the NFL’s typical rulings.
In a statement by the Ravens’ Public Relations Chief Kevin Bryne, there was no discussion about Mr. Rice’s domestic abuse but rather a recount of his first six years in the league. Mr. Bryne spoke mainly of Rice’s on-the-field accomplishments, saying nothing about the negative effects of the incident on the individual, the team or the league.
Unfortunately, this type of behavior by professional athletes shows the exact problem with the message sports are sending in trying to keep players in line with soft punishments. Moreover, serious issues like domestic violence are not just something that needs to be addressed; the whole system for dealing with these types of incidents in professional settings requires monumental changes.
It is possible that Rice never meant to hurt his wife and that he was drunk. Certainly he could have changed his thinking since the incident, but the reality is that Mr. Rice still beat a woman. This factor seems to be lost on the disciplinary party.
Discipline is a very important part of life, whether its punishing a puppy for going to the bathroom in the house, or handing out a ticket as a police officer. Correct or incorrect punishments can go a long way in shaping how an individual and how a society acts, and, in turn, what is a social norm or what is considered acceptable.
The time has come for a non-NFL related entity to step in and to serve justice in a proper, non-controversial way. This means practicing by a book or code instead of by an individual who profits off the success of the league. Many who are watching this all unfold are young men and women who are fans of this league, and the loose decisions that the NFL shows on disciplinary actions is not sending a positive message to viewers.