Organization: The National Football League (NFL)
Rice playing in preseason game for Baltimore Ravens, Aug. 23, 2014.
How it started: In February of this year, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was charged with assault for hitting his fiancee. The Ravens conducted a shallow investigation, which was stopped when the prosecutor dropped charges.
In April, the NFL became involved in the case. Commissioner Roger Goodell was allowed to view the video of Rice knocking his fiancee unconscious, and in June he issued a two game suspension for Rice. This same video was not given to the Ravens until September 8, when the team promptly released Rice.
Reactions: The two game suspension ignited a flurry of protest from players and fans across the country. These people pointed out that lesser acts, such as missed drug tests or unnecessary roughness in games, can result in four or five day suspensions.
Examples of tweets from #whyistayed
The NFL unintentionally waded into a women’s rights controversy. Twitter exploded with posts about #WhyIStayed, in which women shared the devastating impact of physically abusive relationships.
When TMZ released the video of Rice punching his fiancee on September 8, the outrage reached a new level. The Ravens released Rice almost immediately, and Goodell extended his suspension indefinitely. Although this appeased angry players and fans, the conflict is nowhere close to resolved.
Why should you care?
The way that Rice treated his fiancee — now wife — is a reminder of the prevalence of domestic violence in American culture. A study by victim assistance organization Safe Horizon found that 25 percent of American women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. This is a truly appalling statistic. It communicates a level of violent behavior in men nationwide that does not match up with the ethics and ideals that most Americans believe in.
It is impossible to completely destroy patterns of violence in humans. However, when someone like Rice can knock his fiancee unconscious and almost get by with only a two-game suspension, it enforces that pattern.
Little boys look up to men like Rice. When they look at him, they see a 5’ 8” second round draft pick who averaged over 1,000 rushing yards per season. They see an NFL athlete, a role model. And when they see him hit his fiancee, they become numbed to violence.
Maybe they don’t automatically think, “Domestic violence is okay.” But the message is still there. An NFL athlete can hurt someone, and it’s not as big of a crime as missing a drug test. An NFL athlete can beat his girlfriend, and the consequences will be minor.
Wife Janay Rice makes statement to news media May 5, 2014.
NFL fans and players alike must realize that while Rice committed the crime here, there is a second tragedy — the reaction of the Ravens and the NFL. Beating a woman cannot be solved with a two game suspension. Spending two Sundays warming the bench does not erase the memories of being punched in the face and dragged unconscious down a hallway.
Yes, the NFL indefinitely suspended Rice, but that suspension came two months too late. And it’s those two months of separation that illustrate just how far America has to go in rectifying the issue of domestic violence.