A while back, on one of my social media pages, a friend sent me this link to an article at The Baltimore Sun:
Prior to reading the article, I didn’t think I had too much to say about the Ray Rice incident. I’m not an avid National Football League fan and I didn’t know anything about Mr. Rice, outside of what I had seen in that now infamous security footage. Nevertheless, after reading the above article by Susan Reimer, I realized I had too much to say about the situation to limit myself to a comment box on social media. Now that you know how we ended up here, let’s begin, shall we?
I didn’t agree with too much of what Reimer had to say, but when I got to the part where she outlines the issue at the core of the Ray Rice domestic abuse incident, I lost my shit entirely. She states:
Here’s the problem.
“The NFL cannot look like police, judge and jury without also looking the fool. How does the NFL balance, on the scales of justice, objectionable behavior on one side and a certain number of games on the other? There’s no proportion there.
The response of New Jersey prosecutors might have been flawed, but Rice was being punished in accordance with the law. That’s how this should be addressed.”
Here’s the actual problem:
The NFL doesn’t look like “the police judge and jury,” they look like the employer that cared more about its associates / players smoking weed than it did about them abusing women. It looked like what it was–a league that was lenient on players that openly engaged in domestic violence.
Of course Ray Rice should be punished for his crime according to the letter of the law as Reimer suggests. As a matter of fact, he was, as was his then fiancée–now wife–Janay Rice (née Palmer).
Here’s the part that infuriates:
Ray Rice’s lawyer, Andrew Alperstein, described the exchange between Ray and Janay as a “very minor physical altercation…” Let your thoughts swirl around that ellipsis for a moment–let them hang in the air and examine them closely.
Now, here’s a reminder of what actually went down in that elevator:
While Rice was punished, consistent with state laws, that doesn’t mean his punishment provided any measure of justice. As women, we’re allowed to be especially outraged at his painfully light sentence. We’re also well within our rights to look to the NFL and expect them to discipline players that violate their Personal Conduct Policy. Lastly, it should make our blood boil when people look at domestic / intimate partner violence as something to be taken lightly.
Janay Rice chose to forgive her fiancée for knocking her out and dragging her unconscious body around in public–that part is entirely on her. She elected not to press charges and the rest of us must live with her decision. She’s free to do with her life as she sees fit and I’m OK with that because I love freedom. If you loved freedom, you’d be OK with it too.
What we shouldn’t be OK with, is a justice system that is lax when it comes to punishing domestic abusers. Violence against women is primarily intimate partner violence and every time someone “gets away” with hitting their wife, girlfriend, or fiancée, it sends the message that it’s not all that important to respect women.
When the NFL let Ray Rice off with a two-game suspension, it sent the message that they didn’t think the Ray Rice incident was that big of a deal. While it is unfortunate, it’s not illegal for the NFL to give zero fucks when one of their players physically assaults a woman. It’s insulting is what it is. Watching the NFL actively court female fans via special makeup kits and jerseys:
…while simultaneously acting like violence against women is no big whoop, is an affront to all women. If the NFL expects to grow its female audience, then they need to start showing women a little respect, even if it’s all for show. Placate us ladies the way you would placate your male fan base, NFL. I’m begging you.
Slapping Ray Rice on the wrist with a mere two-game suspension is about as insulting to women’s intelligence as pointing out that his indefinite suspension was a public relations move. Of course the National Football League wants to distance itself from a man who has made the organization look horrifically bad in the public eye–they should.
Susan Reimer, over at The Baltimore Sun doesn’t agree. She objects to the general public’s interest in how the NFL disciplines its player’s bad life decisions. She says:
“The only thing more hideous than allowing the NFL to set punishment for beating women is letting the NCAA set punishments for molesting children. That is not the business they are in. It is not what they are good at. It isn’t anything they know anything about. Just negotiate the television contracts and pass out the money. Leave crime and punishment to the legal system.”
Just as the NCAA isn’t in the business of setting punishments for molesting children, neither is the Catholic Church, but that doesn’t mean these organizations should forgo punishing the pedophiles amongst them. Haven’t you ever signed away your life on your first day at a new job, Susan Reimer? You mean to tell me you’ve never been informed of a personal conduct policy you were expected to uphold, even when off the clock? If you haven’t, I’d suggest you call HR and check again because the hand that feeds also signs the checks and demands a little respect.
Furthermore, in contrast to Remier, I don’t feel sorry for Ray Rice. He was paid handsomely to play football. He ruined that when he decided to punch his fiancée, subsequently making a public mockery of the league which he had been paid to represent. That seems like one hell of a breach of contract to me, and as such, it deserves to be recognized and Rice disciplined. Did the NFL “sacrifice Ray Rice on the altar of their public image,” as Remier so eloquently puts it? Hell yes they did. Did he deserve it? Maybe. Did Janay deserve to be knocked unconscious? Nope.