The whole timeline makes the NFL look incredibly amateurish, like Cosmo Kramer trying to run the Moviefone hotline from his apartment in Seinfield. “Why don’t you just tell us the number of games we should suspend him for?”
The NFL knows it screwed up and is now trying to fix the problem, but what’s really disturbing about this whole situation is it took a superfluous amount of Twitter outrage and backlash from other key public figures for a league of otherwise intelligent, cultured businessmen to realize the hypocrisy in punishing drug users worse than wife-beaters. Maine governor Paul LePage actually wrote a stern letter to commissioner Roger Goodell condemning the NFL for its lame attempt at rectifying the situation and later said Rice should be taken out behind the shed and dealt with by his teammates.
In defense of the NFL, some of TV’s most prominent talking heads/football apologists, including ESPN’s Adam Schefter, a guy who knows better than to bite the hand that feeds him many of his exclusives, have given the league a free pass on this one because, after all, it never really had a domestic abuse policy to begin with, so it couldn’t possibly know how to handle this situation. Domestic violence accounts for 48 percent of arrests for violent crimes among NFL players, which is more than double the national rate. Though DUIs still reign supreme on the NFL police blotter, domestic violence rates have risen dramatically under Goodell’s watch and that alone should’ve been enough for Goodell to step in and set a precedent long before Rice’s high-profile case went public and caused the NFL irreparable embarrassment and ridicule.
You don’t need a law degree or a boardroom filled with stuffed shirts to understand what does and doesn’t suffice as a feasible penalty for someone who slugs his wife and drags her unconscious body through a casino lobby. The idea that the league flubbed Rice’s suspension because it didn’t have parameters with which to abide by is only slightly less offensive than Stephen A. Smith suggesting women should stop provoking such beatings.
Common sense and tort law would be a lethal combination in the fight against domestic violence if the league cared enough to do something about it, but what’s clear is the NFL and other leagues only react when the public outcry and/or potential loss in revenue is great enough to justify a punishment. The NBA banned one of its owners for life for racist remarks during a recorded phone conversation in the privacy of his own home, a move no doubt fueled by sponsors immediately cutting ties with the Los Angeles Clippers, which in turn would affect the league’s revenue-sharing system since all teams eat from the same trough.
As annoying as contrived social media activism is at times, such as turning disease awareness into a wet T-shirt contest, the idea that we can change the way a league handles its discrepancies by making our collective voices heard is a prime example of using our powers for good. What’s scary is the NFL didn’t realize how ill received its suspension of Rice would be until it actually hit the newswire and is now trying to backtrack to make things right. If tougher policies reduce the number of domestic violence cases in the NFL, great, but a little common sense next time would go a long way, much further than kneejerk reactions to other people’s reactions.
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