By Jesse Grossman ‘15
Players in the National Football League have bodies chiseled out of stone, but their demeanor on the field is closer to scary and repulsive. Players are told at a young age to be ruthless, to respect their opponents, but to want to destroy them on the field.
When you think about it, there is not much wrong with it. The sport requires players to drive themselves into their opponents and praises players who hit the hardest.
However, recently, a few of these players with their rough demeanors have been arrested for domestic violence related incidents. This has led to a lot of people thinking that the NFL has a domestic violence issue. However, the NFL has a response problem. The league does not know how to react when issues like this come up. They tend to rush decisions rather than take their time and get things right. And, when more than half the country spends their autumn Sundays as your audience, you need to start getting things right.
On February 15, Ray Rice, ex- Baltimore Ravens running back, and his fiancée were arrested on domestic violence charges. Part of a security video revealed by TMZ showed Rice carrying his seemingly unconscious fiancée from an elevator.
Shortly after, the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, ruled that Rice would be suspended for the first two games of the season. This was a rather weak punishment because players who violate the league’s drug policy serve a four game suspension. The NFL was giving off the message that domestic violence was not as bad as smoking marijuana. However, the lowest possession of marijuana arrest in New York City warrants a fine while the lowest domestic violence arrest warrants four years in jail according to criminaldefenselawyer.com.
After Rice was suspended, Goodell was greatly criticized for not being harsh enough and letting Rice off easy, so Goodell instituted a new domestic violence policy highlighted by a six-game ban for the first offense and a lifetime ban with possible reinstatement for the second offense. However, if you look deeper into the policy, the law gives off the feel that the “lifetime ban” is more of just a formality because as long as the player does not go on constant domestic violence rampages, they could easily be reinstated within one year.
Meanwhile, the rest of the video was released by TMZ in September showing Rice punching his fiancée in the face and knocking her out. Rice was immediately suspended indefinitely. To this point, the suspension has now exceeded the punishment for a first-time offender. The policy in a letter to all of the NFL owners states that the six game suspension can be extended in cases involving “a prior incident before joining the NFL, or violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child”. The case of Rice does appear extreme, but it does not pertain to any of the actions stated in the policy. If the policy is in place, it is only fair to the players to stick to it. Although the actions committed by Rice were atrocious and uncomfortable to see, what else could the commissioner have expected to see when he heard Rice, a man who is known for running through people, punched his much smaller fiancée? Rice deserves a ruling for his actions rather than to be left in the dark while the commissioner deals with a self-inflicted crisis.
The NFL’s main misstep in all of this trouble has been making quick, uninformed decisions. While fans of the team Rice played for may have initially been happy that he was only suspended two games, most believed the situation was handled negligently. Goodell was originally given a small measure of praise for instituting the policy but then declined to enforce it after the video came out.
It is possible that regardless of the decision, the league would have been criticized but it makes more sense to make a sound, thought out decision to release a speedy verdict on these issues. The NFL should take its time and work with many different types of people so they can make sure that their rulings are fair and warranted.