Written by Andrea Martin. Media by Matt Miller
In the wake of NFL player Ray Rice being cut by the Baltimore Ravens and indefinitely suspended by the NFL, awareness for domestic violence and its roots and causes have jumped ten fold. Last February, news broke that Rice had struck his fiancée, Jamay Palmer, in an elevator, rendering her unconscious. Caught on camera, Rice was shown dragging Palmer’s body out of the elevator and then police were called to inspect the situation. A few weeks ago, though, another video was leaked by TMZ showing Rice, again, but this time, catching him pushing Palmer before striking her with one punch to the face.
After the initial release of the second video, the Baltimore Ravens thoroughly terminated all ties with Rice, and Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, suspended him indefinitely from the league.
The handling of the situation by the NFL has come under heavy fire. The Ravens announced that no action would be taken against Rice until due process took its course (soon after the incident), but Goodell drew the most criticism. Soon after meeting with Rice and Palmer personally in July, Goodell declared that Rice would be suspended for the first two games of the 2014 NFL season. Many considered this punishment too lenient for such an incident, and organizations that support victims of domestic violence denounced Goodell’s action. Later in August, Goodell addressed the media, and NFL owners that he “didn’t get it right,” and acknowledged that domestic violence happening within the NFL would not be tolerated.
New NFL Domestic Violence Rules
As of now, the NFL has changed its stance regarding domestic violence and other means of assault. For a first time offender the NFL will suspend that player for six games, but a second time offender will be banned from the league. In the past, some players have been convicted of domestic violence, but the NFL did not instigate discipline. An example would be of Kevin Williams, who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct back in 2005 and was put on probation, but was not suspended by the NFL.
While the NFL has continued to deny it hadn’t seen the video of Rice until it was released publicly, a new allegation is brewing.
The Associated Press reported on September 10 that a law enforcement official sent the video of Rice assaulting Palmer to an NFL executive back in April, two months after the original incident. The NFL released a statement declaring, “We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday [Sep. 8]. We will look into it.” The law enforcement official involved, though, played The Associate Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived.
Goodell has received even more harsh criticism from this new revelation with people declaring he has lied to the public of the Rice situation, but NFL owners and coaches continue to back him up.
Handlings of Other Domestic Violence Issues
The NFL has seemingly been quiet on other domestic violence situations that have involved other players and teams, and one instance involves Carolina Panther defensive end Greg Hardy.
On July 15 Hardy was convicted of assault on his then-girlfriend Nicole Holder after she reported he threw her around and threatened to kill her.
This incident happened months after Rice’s domestic violence situation, but the NFL did not issue any punishment for Hardy, nor did the Carolina Panthers. Hardy played during the first week of the NFL season. Not until September 17 did the Panthers address Hardy’s situation, and place him on the exempt list, which allows Hardy to be around the team but not participate in practices or games.
Hardy is appealing his guilty verdict, which is set to start to on Nov. 17.
San Francisco 49er Ray McDonald, on the other hand, is still an active player who was arrested on Aug. 31 for domestic violence. Goodell has not placed any sort of punishment on McDonald, and the 49ers organization has chosen to let the investigation of McDonald run its course. This has generated criticism from former NFL players, such as Jerry Rice, who are calling for McDonald to be deactivated from the team.
Evaluation of the NFL
The hole that the NFL is in now seems to get deeper and deeper. With football being one of the most popular sports in the U.S., this would seem like an opportunity for the organization to buckle down and address the seriousness of domestic violence. Instead, it has been trying to defend its actions, or lack thereof.
In a press conference in September, Goodell declared that he, and the coaches, players, and owners of the NFL, would look to evaluate how teams handle domestic violence cases, and what can be done to prevent such incidents in the future. This seems to all be smoke and mirrors regarding the Rice situation and the impact it has had on the NFL and awareness for domestic violence.
As reported last week by ESPN in its “Outside the Lines” segment, the Baltimore Ravens had looked to cover-up the Rice incident after the organization had seen the elevator video of Rice knocking out his then-fiancée. The owner Steve Bisciotti, president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome looked for leniency for Rice, starting with the judicial system in Atlantic County, New Jersey, where the incident took place. The organization also looked to Goodell, whom was solely in charge of how Rice would be disciplined.
The Ravens are not concerned with domestic violence; they are only concerned with keeping their organization clean and smear-free of any sort of negative connotations that may arise from this issue. Goodell has stated that he is now more aware than ever of domestic violence, but why is he just now addressing the NFL’s problems with such violence? The answer is plain and simple. If the video of Rice and his fiancée had never gotten out to the public, Goodell wouldn’t have had to spend so much time justifying why he did this or why he didn’t do this. It is clear that some teams are bowing to the whims of public outcry, but this does not mean that they are educated on the impact that domestic violence has on a person.