When the Baltimore Ravens announced on Monday that they were terminating running back Ray Rice’s contract, I was angry.To be clear, I wasn’t angry that he was being punished. I have zero sympathy for a man who beats his wife, as Rice did in an Atlantic City casino in February. I was angry that it took this long to take any meaningful action.
When initial reports about Rice and his wife, Janay Palmer, emerged, it was very clear that something terrible had happened. The previously released security camera footage from outside of the elevator at the Revel Casino showed Rice dragging his seemingly unconscious wife into the hallway. In March, a jury charged Rice with third-degree aggravated assault, a felony.
What was the backlash? Massive fines, suspensions, jail time? Rice received a slap on the wrist. The Ravens took no action in terms of punishment and Roger Goodell and the NFL were “enraged” enough to levy a two-game suspension.
Two measly games. On top of that, thanks to a “diversionary program,” Rice was allowed to avoid trial and, if he manages to stay out of trouble for a year, have his assault charge dismissed.
So what changed? Why did the Ravens and the NFL as a whole seem to make a complete 180-degree turn on Monday? Let’s turn to commissioner Goodell.
Goodell issued a statement via the NFL’s Twitter account that said, “… based on new video evidence that became available today he [Goodell] has indefinitely suspended Ray Rice.”
The more recent video, which was released Monday, is from the camera inside of the elevator. In it, we see Rice and Palmer get into a fight. Both throw punches before a strike from Rice connects with Palmer’s face and she falls to the ground.
Is that what it takes for the NFL to take action? A disgusting video of a man hitting a woman in the face hard enough that she loses consciousness? Witnesses and media outlets had already described and reported on what had happened that February night in Atlantic City, but it took the release of the video before anyone in charge decided to do something about it.
Goodell knew he made a mistake soon after the original two-game suspension was handed down. In August he made sure that more severe penalties were in place for players involved in domestic abuse cases, an ultimately shallow gesture. If he wanted to make a statement, he would have brought the hammer down harder on Rice in the first place, instead of letting him skate by with a punishment akin to a child’s time-out.
No one wins from this entire fiasco. Goodell and the NFL, who already don’t have the greatest image, come out looking weak and the Ravens have no type of moral high ground either; they were just as happy to get Rice back on the field after his suspension was up until the second video was released.
There’s no one that can control what players do, but until there is someone firmly in charge of the NFL that can lay down severe punishments for when its players do misbehave, there can be little hope for improvement.