In a macabre move, the NFL deemed a two-game suspension appropriate punishment for domestic violence. Ray Rice beat his then-fiancé, Janay Rice, unconscious and subsequently dragged her body out of the elevator she passed out in. The 27-year-old running back for the Baltimore Ravens is receiving nothing more than a slap on the wrist for abusing the mother of his child.
The glorification of athletes casts a moral shadow over society. When did the ability to throw a ball surpass adhering to basic human decency? These grossly overpaid men get away with murder, literally.
Rice is hardly the first to be inducted into the Abusive Football Players Club. The Arizona Cardinals’ Daryl Washington pleaded guilty to breaking his girlfriend’s collarbone, for which he has yet to face any disciplinary action from the NFL. However, he is suspended for a year due to substance abuse. And with that, the NFL extended its middle finger to women everywhere: using drugs is unacceptable, but abusing people is OK.
The NFL is simply a reflection of the ongoing epidemic. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every four women will experience domestic violence, with women between the ages of 20 and 24 being at the greatest risk of nonfatal violence. Nearly 30 percent of college-age women have been in an abusive relationship.
One of the most disturbing factors of this pitiful punishment is the response it’s prompted. There is enough shame that accompanies being in a physically abusive relationship, victim-blaming has no place in discussions about Rice’s abhorrent actions. You cannot justify a man hitting a woman, ever. And yet, that is exactly what ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith did by saying, “We keep talking about the guys, when we never talk about the elements of provocation.” Smith didn’t elaborate on what he feels a woman can do to deserve getting punched in the face by a man, but he has since then apologized for his comments (after vehemently defending them on Twitter).
The psychological torment that plagues victims is often overlooked in discussions about domestic violence. The fact that Rice’s now-wife not only returned to her abuser but married him after the attack is not uncommon, and it certainly does not negate his revolting behavior. Women in abusive relationships notoriously have low self-esteem. Now, women are being told on a national platform that their lives are worth two football games. There is no vindication to be found in this diminutive suspension by the NFL.
When will the NFL say enough is enough? When will it place human lives above a sport? When will it stop condoning players breaking the bones of their wives/girlfriends?
Their latest message has sent a resounding, “Never.” We hear you, NFL. The moral bankruptcy of the nonprofit organization is on display. Perhaps football fans need to evaluate just what it is they are supporting when they go to a game. Perhaps then they’ll hear us, too.
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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