The Ray Rice story has been prominent in the headlines this week, in both sports and general news. Rice is the NFL star who was caught on an elevator security camera knocking his then-girlfriend now-wife unconscious before dragging her from the elevator and dumping her like a sack of trash. The NFL reacted, belatedly converting his two-game suspension to an indefinite suspension, while the Baltimore Ravens booted him from the team.
Personally, I’ve no use for any man who hits a woman, regardless of the circumstances. But apparently it’s not so black-and-white for the NFL. A two-game suspension was too light a punishment, but changing it later (supposedly only after seeing the video) seemed inconsistent. The league (or its commissioner, Roger Goodell) needs to decide what their policy is going to be, and that won’t be easy for them. There are millions of dollars at stake — in player contracts, game attendance, public perception, etc.
If they suspend every player accused of domestic violence — not to mention child abuse, drug use, robbery, DUI/DWI, assault, illegal possession of a weapon, etc. — some clubs might have trouble fielding a team. And the league seems to be harboring a number of thugs and miscreants of all descriptions. The NFL needs to decide whether to issue suspensions or other penalties in the case of accusations (which may be false), arrests (which are not convictions), charges filed (also not convictions), or wait for actual convictions. Make the rules clear, draw a line in the sand, and dare players to cross it. It shouldn’t be that hard.
I’ve always had some reservations (admittedly not as hard and fast as they once were) about any employer punishing an employee for activities outside the workplace that have no bearing on their work. That said, NFL players are public figures and role models, and public figures don’t really get to have private lives. Players like Ray Rice should not be “untouchable” just because they are valuable assets, professional athletes, and role models.
Rice was indicted on one count of felony aggravated assault, pleaded not guilty, and entered a pretrial intervention program upon completion of which charges will be dropped. Yet despite what’s happened, sports commentators seem to think he’s too good a player not to get signed by another team.
Whether he should be allowed to do so is another question.