I am boycotting the NFL.
Some might say I am overreacting, making a snap judgement based on the recently released video of Ray Rice striking his wife and knocking her out cold. To them I say, this isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened and it won’t be the last. It certainly will not be the last time the NFL reveals how incompetent it really is.
But first, a little background on what transpired in that Atlantic City elevator, and the utter disgrace that followed.
On Feb. 15, Ray Rice, along with his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, was arrested, charged and released in Atlantic City, N.J. on simple assault charges. Four days later, a video surfaced of Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of an elevator, leaving her in between the elevator and the floor, and waiting for someone to come aid in the situation. It took five months for the NFL to reach a decision on how to deal with Rice, with the Baltimore Ravens coming to his defense all the while.
Different day, different standard?
Rice initially received a two-game suspension for his behavior. This seemed underwhelming, in light of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon’s indefinite suspension for driving under the influence of marijuana around that time.
This Friday, Rice would have been home free. A scandal behind him and back on the field, the violence would’ve been forgotten in due time.
NFL fans would have chosen to believe in second chances. Tons of players have been involved in scandals and gotten back into the league. Some have even been beatified by their fans (think Ray Lewis in Baltimore).
This wouldn’t be a new narrative. The NFL loves to bring the hammer down on drug-related cases, but has always been inauspiciously limp when the forms of criminality currently on display are involved. The video of Rice striking his wife is not only morally reprehensible, it is physically sickening. This isn’t some normal guy taking a swing. This is an NFL running back, at the peak of his physical prime, hitting his then-fiance, now-wife in the face so hard that she hits the arm support beam in the elevator and goes limp.
The situation was handled horrendously
Here, the usual narrative must change.
I am choosing to boycott the NFL for a number of reasons, but chiefly because the situation was handled horrendously. In the wake of the outcry regarding Rice’s original suspension, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell changed the league’s policy on domestic abuse: six games for the first charge, lifetime ban for the second. This was a welcome change, but one only created because of widespread outrage over the lighter sentence.
Then, the video surfaces.
The league chose to twiddle their thumbs, waiting for someone else to make the first move. The Baltimore Ravens cut Rice from the team as of 1:18 p.m. Monday. Thirty minutes later, the NFL announced Rice was to be suspended indefinitely.
The league was obviously at fault granting Rice the original two games. It still waited five hours until after the release of the video by TMZ Sports on Monday to increase Rice’s punishment. This move was more about saving face when the flames of the hellish publicity firestorm were too great. It was not about contending domestic violence as an important issue.
To add insult to injury, the NFL and some high-profile football journalists attest the video was never released to the NFL by law enforcement. Other reports indicate the league did not only have access to every piece of evidence law enforcement did, but also had knowledge that this video was in existence. And in the end, does it really matter at what point the NFL found out? The evidence presented yesterday shouldn’t even matter in this case. The video from February shows Ray Rice dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator. What did people think happened in there? That she just happened to fall down unconscious? What was released by TMZ was just the final nail in the coffin of Ray Rice’s career in the NFL.
What did the NFL know – and when?
If it turns out the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens had seen this video prior to their original suspension of Ray Rice, it will go down as the biggest blunder the league will ever face. It is hard to sit and think that an organization with so much control over its players and personnel would find any trouble gathering evidence from police, especially since an investigation of the events was ongoing. Unfortunately, we may never know the true story.
So, what now?
Now, the fans and the NFL must realize what is actually important when it comes to warranting a suspension in professional football. There is never, under any circumstance, reason to hit a woman. It does not matter how drunk or upset you are. The National Football League should be ashamed of itself, the Ravens should be ashamed of themselves, but most importantly, we should be ashamed of ourselves. We allowed ourselves as fans to buy into the possibility of there being two sides to this story. From 30 Ravens standing in solidarity behind Rice at his press-conference to the outpouring of support on social media, everyone should feel foolish for believing in Ray Rice for a second.
This probably won’t be the last time this type of thing happens, as abuse and assault have been in pro sports for years. I can only hope that the next time this type of situation happens, we the people, the NFL and any other professional sports league remember today.
Only next time, there might not be a video to shock the world. Remember that.
As for me, I’ll be outside next Sunday, away from the NFL and the twisted morality that the league seems to condone.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Andrew Haubner at Andrew.Haubner@colorado.edu.