Sunday, August 03, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice did a very bad thing last February in a New Jersey casino. He cold cocked his then fiance.  Shortly thereafter he got caught on camera dragging the obviously unconscious Janay Palmer out of an elevator.  Take a look for yourself.  The imagery couldn't be more stark.

It shows the powerfully built Rice dragging an inert and utterly defenseless Parker.  Not only is this video damning in its depiction of the obvious differences in power between the two figures, it also amply demonstrates how not to transport someone who has sustained a concussion.  A fair fight this was not.  

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rightly considered this incident to be a violation of the league's much ballyhooed "personal conduct policy" for which Rice caught a 2 game suspension and a fine of $529,411.24 (3 game checks).  And all Hell immediately broke loose among women's rights groups and advocates for victims of domestic violence claiming that the punishment was too lenient.  After all, other players have received stiffer penalties for smoking dope and doing performance enhancing drugs(PEDs).  

Goodell defended the punishment imposed upon Rice, saying that the other disciplinary actions were consistent with penalties negotiated with the NFL Players Union, so Rice's case fell under the evidently much more amorphous personal conduct policy which is the direct province of the Commissioner.

I am a lawyer.  I get this.  There was no policy in the collective bargaining agreement with the player's union that covered this incident. Rice was a first offender who Goodell said "has taken responsibility for this." And Rice, who was charged with assault by the authorities, has agreed to enter into counseling in a pre-trial diversion program for domestic violence.  

But still, Terelle Pryor caught a 5 game suspension in 2011 for selling Ohio State memorabilia BACK WHEN HE WAS IN COLLEGE. Granted, he also got Ohio State put on probation but the question remains why Goodell imposed 5 games on Pryor and only 2 on Rice.

Janay Palmer married her batterer.  (Which I don't get but which is a another topic entirely.) She also asked the league to be lenient with Rice.  Maybe that impacted Goodell's decision as well.  

Or maybe he doesn't get it.  After all, he wouldn't be the first.  Granted, I didn't much get it until I represented battered spouses in divorce cases.  And I later went on the serve on the Board of the local women's shelter.  I've seen women with broken jaws.  I've seen them with shiners.  Hell, I've seen a 4 year old with a shiner.  One of my best friends had the daylights beaten out of her when she was married to her first husband. It changes the way that you look at these issues.

It doesn't make me man of the year.  But it does mean that if I were Roger Goodell Ray Rice would have been suspended for a big chunk of this season. If only to make an example of him.  

Here's my proposed rule: You hit a woman you don't play football for a very long time.  Seems simple to me and entirely consistent with the hyper-macho culture of the NFL.  After all, I was taught that only "sissies" hit girls.  But that was only because "narcissist" is too big a word to explain to a 7 year old.  

As for Rice, he is saying all the right things.  

"[O]ne thing going forward that I can control is being a better father, a better husband, being a better role model going forward, being a better person going forward." 

And "I let my wife down, I let my daughter down, I let my wife's parents down, I let the whole Baltimore community down...because of 30 seconds of my life that I know I can't take back."

Ray Rice has a reputation for being a good guy.  I have no reason to doubt his sincerity.  And I hope he learns his lesson.

But he is a big powerful man in a league full of them.  It is not inconceivable that he could have killed Janay that night.  Or that she could have been hurt worse than she apparently was.

The League and the Union need to adopt penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence.  I like my proposal.  You hit a woman and you don't play football for a very long time.  Open the can.  Get out the lawyers.  Negotiate this.  Bring in some experts.  Go visit a shelter.  Get this done.

After all, hasn't the NFL supposedly gotten serious about concussions?

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