Lax Discipline For Ravens RB Ray Rice Is A Stain On The NFL Shield

The NFL at long last announced the disciplinary action that they intend to take against Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice yesterday, who was arrested earlier this offseason following a domestic dispute with his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, the grisly details of the aftermath being caught on surveillance video.

Rice and Palmer got into a physical confrontation at a casino, during which the former in some way struck the latter in a manner that rendered her unconscious. The video shows Rice attempting to drag Palmer’s unconscious body out of the doors of an elevator.

For his punishment, Commissioner Roger Goodell has determined that a two-game suspension will be sufficient disciplinary action, which will see him miss the opening two games against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I personally am not overly concerned about the punishment as a fan of the Steelers. Were it a Steelers player, I would not hope for a lesser punishment than I feel is deserved simply because he is an athlete on my preferred team.

What does concern me is the image that it sends to the broader public about the league’s stance on issues such as domestic abuse, which more often than not gets swept under the rug and “dealt with in-house”, so to speak.

The league couldn’t walk away from this one once the footage was released, of course, but a two-game suspension seems awfully modest relative to the punishments dealt to players with other infractions, such as the usage of recreational or performance-enhancing drugs.

My chief concern here relates to the league’s own dictates, and in particular their own justification that they use while handling punishments pertaining to personal indiscretions, many of which may fall under a moral rather than legal precedent.

The NFL, particularly in recent years, has allowed itself to extend a broad hand when it comes to disciplining their athletic employees’ personal indiscretions, and to do so, they have invoked the word “integrity”, as in maintaining the integrity of the shield, of the brand of the National Football League.

Those employees who cast the league in a bad light face the consequences. Not many in recent years have cast the NFL in a worse light than the short but stout running back dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator after being the cause of her state of unawareness, excepting Aaron Hernandez, of course.

There is no question that Rice’s actions are detrimental in a very serious way to the integrity of the shield, particularly given the male-dominated nature that tends to follow the game.

The NFL has, especially lately, striven to grow its female fan base, promoting breast cancer awareness during the month of October and selling pink jerseys in support—though admittedly the pink Ray Rice jersey may seem a bit tainted at the moment.

I am curious as to how the commissioner expects its female fan base to respond to this equivalent of a slap on the wrist punishment for the very public display of domestic abuse, an issue that may be deeper in the sports world—and frankly the world at large—than people would be comfortable acknowledging. Here is just a small sampling of that response:

And it’s not just women that have and will continue to respond negatively to the lax disciplinary action. The league has gained a reputation over the last few years for being overly harsh in its punishments, but when it comes to this matter, the opposite opinion seems nearly universally to be true.

To make this clear, whatever Rice or Goodell have said in relation to the disciplinary action is wholly irrelevant. No matter how much remorse Rice feels; no matter how strong Goodell believes that he is and will continue to seek help and improve as a person to get past this incident, the result of the punishment is a public relations nightmare.

Quite simply, people look around and they see players being suspended for four games because they accidentally and unwittingly used a banned supplement, and then they see another player receive a suspension of half the duration for committing an act that could have landed him in prison. That is a mental perception that no amount of verbal justification can untangle.

Judging by the response, it’s quite clear that there are many who see this punishment as a disservice to the serious nature of the subject of domestic abuse. If the NFL is concerned about its public image, then it should have a vested interest in its reputation, and right now it’s garnering a reputation of an organization that trivializes an issue that already receives less attention than it should.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Alberto

    Goodell is a clown…first time i heard him speak i knew he was a joke, and later i was sad to hear mr rooney had vouched for him.

  • Fu-Schnickens

    I truly wish that I could say that I’m shocked. Alas, I am not. Goodell is worthless. He regularly, as most attorneys do, speaks out of both sides of his mouth, and the punishment meted out has been uneven at best. What really fries my cookie is that another Raven gets off damn near free for a major infringement of the law (ahem….”Stabbie” Lewis, would you please step forward?). I’m ashamed for Goodell – I wonder how his wife (a former conservative news correspondent) or twin daughters feel about his judgement in the matter (or lack thereof). Shame on you, Roger, you P.O.S.!

  • Steelers12328882

    I wouldn’t just blame Goodell for this. It’s the responsibility of the people, from owners to fans, to stand up for what they believe is right when they see wrong. Will anyone doing anything about this? Nope. We’ll all just fall in line to watch or be a part of the product we obsess about. That’s why the NFL gets away with just about anything they want to. Money. It’d be nice to see the Rooney’s make a statement about the seriousness of domestic abuse, and how they think the NFL just sent the wrong message.

  • steeltown

    I actually saw someone write something along the lines of, “it’s a fitting punishment for a first time offender” WHAT?!? People disgust me.

  • steeltown

    Harbaugh’s comments put it in perspective. Whata farce.

  • michael young

    The whole “he has a clean past” doesn’t mean anything. Truthfully. Any “good person” I know wouldn’t knock out a women, let alone one he loves. Everyone thought Darren Sharper was a class act too. Turned out he was a serial rapist. Goodell dropped the ball on this one. Also, did anyone see Harbaugh’s smug mug on ESPN last night talking about this?

  • LucasY59

    Steelers drop rainey as soon as they hear there is a possible domestic abuse charge, ratbirds are glad they get rice back after just 2 games, baltimore should show some class and fix godell’s millionth mistake, add to the suspension and make it for at least half a season

  • blackandgoldBullion

    The owners need to at least publicly support that idiot Goodell, or they would be in trouble. Do you remember a few years ago when they went on a rampage, by fining every hard hit a Steeler player committed? The WR ducks into James Harrison and gets knocked out. Result: Fines, fines and more fines and then the first ever suspension for Harrison for a football play incident. Unbelievable! They used the Steelers as an example and the Steelers D was then having to play scared.

    The organization remained quiet although I could imagine how much they were fuming at the time. Now enough time has passed that they should be able to play Steeler football again. Hit them hard, finish the play, and let them play. They won’t say a word about this for fear of the wrath of the NFL.

  • Steel PAul

    We all know the past situation with Ben and his suspension. I’d like to compare another person with Ray Rice’s actions, owner of the LA Clippers, Donald Sterling.

    Let’s compare. This white billionaire owner said some horrible things about black people and was recorded saying them. It’s horrible, especially considering he OWNS A BASKETBALL TEAM with black players on it and has black fans in his stadium ever game.

    Most want him banished from the NBA forever.

    Ray Rice physically beat a person unconscious. Words are one thing. Yes, they are powerful. But what Rice did was worse. He was arrested for this and everyone has seen this terrible video.

    Two games? Are you kidding me? Nothing but disrespect for women and domestic abuse everywhere.

    Goodell is an A-hole. Sorry, just the facts here.

  • Lil Smitty

    Would it be wrong to have an Alice Paul House day when the Raven’s play in Pittsburgh.
    I am going to say something here that might seem insensitive I apologize in advance if I offend anyone. I realize that some relationships are volatile, and emotions can run high. Both men and women can lose their temper and an argument can become physical. If this had been a slap in the face or a shove, I could see a forgiving attitude. To hit someone so hard that they are out like she was, wasn’t a I little loss of control. He had to mean her harm, and that puts the situation on a whole different level. I hope for his wife’s sake that he doesn’t lose it again. People have died from head trauma after hitting the floor unconscious