This October The National Football League shouldn’t even bother.
Every year the nation’s most popular sports league uses the month of Halloween to promote the importance of Breast Cancer awareness. During this time period players and coaches will adorn themselves in pink ribbons, socks, and cleats, stadiums will get wallpapered with banners of support and survivors will be acknowledged before 60,000 rabid fans at each game before kickoffs.
In light of the tap on the knuckles punishment Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice received from the league for knocking out his now wife back in February the bigwigs in the Manhattan offices should scrap this fall’s usual activities because they don’t really care about women.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who has in the past had no problem punishing players for far less handed down the suspension to Rice on Thursday, a suspension that will cost the star $58,000 in missed game checks, pocket change compared to the $25 million he has made over the last two years. The money is beside the point however. The NFL has had a long standing problem with it’s player’s running afoul of the law when it comes to domestic violence. The happiest player in the league right now maybe Carolina Panthers Defensive End Greg Hardy who has now been dethroned from the front pages by Rice. Two weeks ago Hardy was found guilty in a North Carolina courtroom on domestic violence charges. Hardy’s ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder says that he threatened to kill her and threw her on a futon that was covered in guns. From Christian Peter and Lawrence Phillips twenty years ago to Jovan Belcher and Ahmad Brooks more recently, certain players just can’t resist the urge of putting their hands on women.
The sight of Rice dragging his then girlfriend’s unconscious body out of the elevator that two had just been fighting in is as chilling as anything you will ever see. The image of him dropping her in the middle of the floor, standing over her like a safety over a wide receiver he just took out is as blood boiling an image as anything you could ever witness. The only thing that Rice was missing that night was the club that cavemen used centuries ago when they wanted to drag a woman back to their particular lair, yet the NFL says that missing less than a quarter of it’s precious season is enough of a warning to the scores of other impressionable young men it has in it’s stable.
In fairness the legal system failed just as miserably as the league did if not more. Rice was indicted on one count of aggravated assault, but because of a pretrial deal that was struck with prosecutors he was blessed with the reality of serving no jail time and all he and his wife Janay had to do was attend counseling. Who wouldn’t take that deal? The better question is who else would be offered that deal? Not everybody has the credentials of a Pro Bowl making, Super Bowl winning running back and if you think that the people in charge of prosecuting our laws don’t get star struck you’re surprisingly naive. Far more importantly though America’s court systems do a terrible job of taking crimes against women seriously. The names of women and girls who have been stalked, assaulted, and even killed by men who were free from jail when they shouldn’t have been or under an order of protection that wasn’t strong enough is embarrassingly too long.
Rice issued a long winded statement of apology on Thursday which read like the usual “I’m sorry I got caught” response. It covered the familiar phrases of “It’s my fault,” “I failed in many ways.” and “I let the children down with this incident.” If Rice were serious about any of that he would have acknowledged that both the court of law and The National Football League screwed up big time. He would have went to Commissioner Goodell and said “I ask that you suspend me for the entire 2014 season, that time away from the game would give me an opportunity to truthfully reflect on what I did away from the white hot spotlight that comes with being an NFL superstar.” Sadly none of that is going to happen and quite frankly anything positive coming from this entire situation is unlikely.
The NFL has proven time and time again that it is teflon, nothing and I mean absolutely nothing sticks to it. The hint of illegal gambling that comes with the popularity of public point spreads and fantasy football, not a problem. The broken bodies and beat up brains of retired players that is a result of a negligible group of owners, team doctors, and league officials, not important. The arms length list of players who have treated women as disposable entities through nonconsensual sex and indefensible violence, not relevant.
If we were all serious about our anger towards the league we wouldn’t shell out another penny for a cap or jersey or season tickets, and we would find something else to entertain us on Sunday afternoons in the fall until they make good on this issue, but The National Football League knows that our addiction to it’s product is a hard habit to break which gives them no desire to break their addiction to the Ray Rice’s of the world.
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