When Ray Rice was given an indefinite suspension last Monday, many people felt like the clumsy, awkward case of Ray Rice dragging his unconscious spouse from an Atlantic City elevator had (finally) come to a fitting close.
The two-game suspension he was initially given seemed much too light, even before the inside-elevator view surfaced of Rice punching his then-fiancée, now-wife, Janay Palmer Rice in the head. When that video did surface, there was pandemonium.
Everyone contributed their thoughts in on this issue, and most people rightly eviscerated Rice after the incident. Fingers flew to assign blame: Many pointed at Rice, Keith Olbermann blamed Goodell, Kirk Minihane said it was our own fault. But we all agreed: it’s unacceptable.
Ray Rice’s New Rochelle, N.Y. high school removed his jersey from their rafters, Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton called for his immediate and permanent banishment, and the general public cried out for a stiffer penalty than just two games.
Then Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely.
What Ray Rice did is horrible, but the punishment of a lifetime is too excessive.
After hearing about Rice’s ban, I didn’t initially know what to think. I knew that Rice wasn’t the first NFL player to abuse his girlfriend/fiancée/wife domestically, but I didn’t know how many cases you could really compare it to.
Apparently, there are quite a few comparisons. Using the USA Today NFL Player Arrest Index, I was able to discover exactly how many players had been arrested for domestic violence since the year 2000.
Care to take a guess at how many there were?
–Click on the link to view the full list Domestic Violence Rates in NFL—
78 NFL players have been arrested a collective total of 86 times on the charges of domestic violence.
1 NFL player has a lifetime ban.
Those numbers are so grossly disparate that it seems like it should be a typo, but it’s not.
The NFL has now officially taken a tougher stance on domestic abuse, with a 6-game suspension for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second, but it took a single player for that to happen, the last of 78.
Because what Ray Rice did was videotaped, and the whole country could see how gut-wrenchingly horrible it is, he bore the brunt of the new penalty.
Consider Greg Hardy, who played in his Carolina Panther’s week one matchup against the Buccaneers. When he was convicted on his domestic abuse charge July 16th, the headline in the Charlotte Observer reads, “Greg Hardy guilty of assaulting female, communicating threats”. In other terms: “Greg Hardy punched and kicked his girlfriend while saying he would murder her”.
Take Michael Pittman, the former Arizona Cardinals Running Back. In 2001 he was arrested twice in two weeks for domestic violence. The first time, his wife, Melissa, locked herself in a car to flee from her husband’s flying fists. The second, he smashed her house’s sliding glass door, trespassing and terrorizing her. His wife then confessed there were “30 to 40” unreported instances of domestic abuse in their marriage. Pittman was eventually suspended one game. Then, he started 14 of the remaining 15 games, and in the off-season, he signed a 5-year deal worth $8.75 million with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And what about Brandon Marshall? Yes, he heard raucous explosions of cheers as he caught three touchdown passes, helping his Chicago Bears upset the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football, but not too long ago he was arrested once every year for three seasons between 2007 and 2009 for domestic abuse. He hit his fiancée three different times before announcing he had split-personality disorder and started seeing a therapist.
Marshall received a three-game suspension from the NFL. He appealed the decision and won, reducing the punishment to a one-game suspension and a fine of two combined game checks, which totaled $52,353.
That was a light slap as punishment for Brandon Marshall, a repeat offender.
No one cried out that he should receive a harsher punishment, there was no uproar.
Maybe it’s because it wasn’t on tape. If we’d seen Brandon Marshall punching his wife, or Greg Hardy’s homicidal tirade, or Michael Pittman breaking and entering into his wife’s home, would it then become real? Would we have been spurred to action then?
Given that NFL fans were able to ignore the descriptive words of domestic violence 85 times before, I say no.
But this is a video, and what people saw was real.
For those who have been the victim in domestic violence, this was nothing new. But for people who have never experienced domestic violence before, this was the realization and graphic footage that made it shocking.
Speaking to the former point, USA Today ran an article about women who are refusing to trade-in their Ray Rice jerseys. They wear them with pride. Some of them are even survivors of domestic abuse themselves. They defend Ray Rice, even though what he did was vile and monstrous.
So while I don’t support Ray Rice, or what he did, it is tough to conclude that a lifetime suspension is the right move here by the NFL. I applaud the NFL for their actions to toughen their stance on domestic violence in their sport, but Ray Rice needs not be their intimidating example.