by Kent Sterling
People are baffled and pissed off at the two-game suspension levied by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as punishment of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s battery of his then-girlfriend/now-wife, and that anger has given a fresh run on a story that Rice and his bride would love to see die.
Rice hit his girlfriend while in the elevator of a casino, and then pulled her unconscious into the hallway. That is what the video obtained by TMZ shows, and there has been no complaint that disagrees with that interpretation of events.
You can’t be a little bit guilty of hitting a woman. There are no shades of gray in domestic violence. There is no justification for hitting a woman – period. And there should be no two-game rip for anyone who puts his hands on a woman, regardless of the situation.
By issuing a two-game suspension, Goodell has told society that circumstances exist where hitting a woman is less wrong, and that message is a revolting under-reaction that provides cover for those who raise their hands against a woman in anger – or supposed self-defense.
This slap on the wrist will roll the story forward for many news cycles, and if the 45% of NFL fans who are women get angry enough, there could be a chorus of boos and the potential for picket lines outside stadiums where the Ravens play extending well into the Fall.
While Justin Blackmon and Josh Gordon will likely sit out the entire 2014 season because of repeated pot related offenses, and LaVon Brazill of the Indianapolis Colts was released following another dirty test for marijuana use, Rice will sit for two games.
Such is the state of justice in the NFL. A couple of tokes from a joint months removed from playing football gets a guy with a past the boot, but hitting a woman gets Rice a two-game break because it’s his first foray into that behavior.
That logic will keep Rice in the news this week, next week, and beyond. Justice has a way of finding those who violate it, and if Goodell had come with a half-season suspension, maybe people interpret it as a serious disincentive and move forward.
There are indiscretions that can be forgiven. Victimless crimes are sometimes explained to our satisfaction. We can move past a hungry guy stealing a loaf of bread and pound of salami. A college student getting loaded and then passing out on the front porch of a neighbor’s house is part of living near a university. It’s trespassing, but instead of calling the cops, you throw a blanket on the dumbass and help him or her through the night. Rolling through a stop sign is less dangerous than following the letter of the law.
But you don’t hit a woman. Ever. A woman calls you a name? Walk away. A woman shoves you? Walk away. A woman punches you? Walk away, and find a cop. A woman hits you while you are in an elevator? Ride the storm out, walk away, and find a cop. What you don’t do is hit her back ever.
Rice is now THE face of domestic violence in America, and the more people talk about this, the more engrained that image will become in the minds of NFL fans.
If this blows over, and Goodell and the NFL are allowed to move forward without an additional answer to this situation, shame on all of us. To this point, they have walked in lock step with the justice system that allowed Rice to enter a diversion program – by completing a domestic violence counseling protocol, he will avoid jail.
We expect more from a league that seems to have no trouble asserting its own standard of punishment for the use of a drug that is perfectly legal is several states.
And it may come to pass that the biggest victim in this absurd instance of men in authority looking the other way in Rice, and that he winds up paying a stiffer price because of it.