A lot has been made of the Rams’ drafting of openly gay player Michael Sam. One day we will get to a point where this is neither a big deal nor a news item, and when we do, Sam, the Rams and the NFL can take credit. The move has created serious societal goodwill for the league, but being the NFL – quick to fine players for celebrating in the end zone, but slow to fine those that delivered dangerous, crippling hits – it’s doing its best to erode it. And in the case of Ray Rice, the Pro Bowl running back for the Ravens, it might have given it all away.
For those of you scoring at home, Rice was arrested for hitting his fiancée so hard in a New Jersey casino he knocked her out (see Exhibit A):
According to Deadspin, there is footage of the assault. So an NFL player gets arrested for domestic violence, and the whole thing is caught on film. So what does he get? A two game suspension. And that will come only after Rice participates in training camp and preseason games. So the Ravens will lose Rice against the Bengals and Steelers, two teams they will also see later in the season, and Rice will lose about a half a million dollars, which would be painful to us, but not to him. But God forbid he smoke pot: he’d get four games for the first offense and the entire year for the second (isn’t that right, Daryl Washington and Josh Gordon?).
I looked at that Ray Rice suspension like pic.twitter.com/loF4OpGe0U
— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) July 24, 2014
Unfortunately, Rice’s suspension falls in line with previous NFL players cited for abuse: Brandon Marshall, Fabian Washington, Cary Williams…the list goes on and on. In fact, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that in 2013, 21 NFL teams had a rostered player that had either been charged with domestic or sexual violence. Under any definition, that’s an epidemic, but Commissioner Roger Goodell is doing nothing to cure it.
— CBSSports.com (@CBSSports) July 25, 2014
With the Sam signing and the Rice punishment, Goodell had the chance to make the NFL the sports league of the new millennium. But instead, he drug it back to the 1950s. In his decision, he wrote, “I believe that you [Rice] are sincere in your desire to learn from this matter and move forward toward a healthy relationship and successful career.” Honestly, I don’t give a shit if the guy builds a home for battered women and votes for Hillary Clinton. The simple fact is he struck a woman. And if he is told he can get away with it, what will keep it from happening again, and perhaps with more tragic consequences?
It is not right to strike a woman. It is not normal to get arrested for domestic violence. It is not acceptable to enable those that do. But by looking the other way, the NFL is saying boys will be boys, and millionaires like Ray Rice are worthy of a mulligan, now that they know they shouldn’t do it. No, Commissioner, he should have known in the first place. And fortunately, some guys do know it, like my new favorite NFL player, Jets rookie safety Calvin Prior, who said, “If you put your hands on a woman, it means you’re scared to hit a guy.” (Yahoo Sports)
And if you watch a 212-pound guy knock a woman unconscious and only dock him two games, you’re scared of him, too.
David Young has been a columnist for ESPN and Sports Illustrated, and is now one for SportsGrid. Follow him on Twitter @flyingturkeys.