The public clamor for the NFL to “do more” when confronted by evidence of serious wrongdoing in the cases of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, and an unfortunately large number of other cases strikes me as very troubling, and reflective of this view, apparently pretty widespread, that we can’t count on the legal system to mete out appropriate punishment in a reasonable way. We have a criminal law, one would think, to define behavior that we cannot accept as a society, and to identify and punish those who violate those norms. Many people, though, seem to want the NFL, and/or the individual NFL teams, to take over that function. It’s a kind of privatization of a public function, and, extended more broadly, its costs might be much higher than we think. Do we really think it would be a such a good idea if Microsoft, say, or General Electric, or Wal-Mart, or Amazon, or other large private employers started instituting “codes of conduct” governing employee behavior outside of work time? And if they started firing people because they received a video showing them behaving unlawfully, even heinously? And let’s see, whose interests do we think the NFL’s process for determining punishment is going to serve – the public’s? Or the NFL’s?
In news today that was mostly (but not totally) condemned as tone-deaf and inappropriate, the NFL suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games, but no preseason games, practices, or training camp activities, and docked his pay for a third game, for beating his then-fiancee, Janay, until she was unconscious and dragging her out of an elevator at an Atlantic City casino this February. That the NFL has a serious domestic abuse problem became frighteningly clear at Rice’s post-beating press conference (which I unfortunately had to highlight here). Today’s mild sanction did nothing to change that nauseating narrative.
Deadspin put together a list of “other notable NFL suspensions,” which offers some context for Rice’s two-game sanction. If you want to read the list, with all of the details and circumstances, it’s available here. I’ve attempted to distill the list to the basics below. Continue reading →
It’s the natural question that arises after watching the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice dragging the unconscious body of Jenay Rice from the elevator where he knocked her out. Then his fiancée — the video was taken in mid-February before their wedding later that month — on Friday she stood by him as his wife for a stomach-flipping press conference. The disgust starts with the monstrous obliviousness of Ray Rice’s stating, “Failure is not getting knocked down, but not getting up,” and ends with Jenay Rice sharing the blame for his unconscionable crime. That so many wonder how this situation could end with Rice easily avoiding jail time and marrying the woman he battered betrays the willful ignorance of a society that enables him.
Violence is how abusers keep their victims from escaping. Wondering why Jenay Rice would stay requires a focused ignorance of a world in which roughly one third of murders against women are committed by an intimate partner. In this world, the threat of death, expressed or implied, can keep anyone captive.
Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL have seemingly normalized domestic violence as a learning experience for the abuser. Apparently, the crime isn’t the crime itself, but failing to offer a mawkish homily on how the crime made you a better person. The future of domestic violence in sports is here now. … Read More