Why do Dead Dogs Matter More than Battered Women to the NFL?

Unless you’ve been under a rock the last three days, you’ve probably seen the video of Ray Rice smacking the ever-living shit out of his then-fiancee in a casino elevator. Even if you aren’t into football, you have probably been exposed to this sordid story of domestic violence and corporate ineptitude. It highlights a major problem not just with the NFL but with society in general – the problem being that all too often, we don’t think about domestic violence and its victims until it explodes in our face.

For a quick recap, seven months ago, Ray Rice and his fiancee had a few too many in a casino bar and on the way to their room, an altercation ensued. In the altercation, Rice punched his fiancee twice, rendering her unconscious in the elevator. Ray Rice played football for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League. He is not what I’d consider a BIG football player. He’s short but he’s thick as a brick, which means he might not tower over most women, but he damn sure has the ability to punch a woman (or a man) into next week. Now, this is not a new phenomenon. Women have been getting beaten up by their husbands and boyfriends since the dawn of time and thankfully, our society has methods to punish dirtbags who use their physical strength to batter women into submission. It’s certainly not a new occurrence for an NFL player to be involved in this either. What made this story unique was the presence of video technology. Like all casinos, this particular casino had video cameras everywhere, and this story broke as much because of the video showing Rice dragging his unconscious victim out of the elevator with about as much emotional concern as I show for the garbage when I take it to the end of the street.

People who saw the video were understandably shocked. It’s one thing to hear about a women getting beaten on by her man, it’s another thing to see the results. To his credit (and its the only thing I can credit this man with), Rice didn’t try to weasel out of it. He admitted what he did, accepted the prosecutor’s offer of pre-trial counseling (which carries a guilty plea but keeps him out of jail as long as he keeps straight) and said his mea culpas in front of the press. The NFL investigated and eventually settled on a ludicrous tw0-game suspension which was followed by a huge public outcry about what amounts to barely a slap on the wrist punishment. After all, anyone who pays attention to football knows that guys who get caught just smoking weed can get four games. DUI arrests were no one was hurt get more suspension time. The NFL, seeing that it had made a huge mistake changed its policy to a minimum of six game bans for first offenders – none of which mattered to the Rice case as they weren’t going to change his punishment.

Then Monday, TMZ released a video that showed the incident from inside the elevator. Despite what we all knew had happened in that elevator, despite Rice having admitted to knocking this woman unconscious, the video shocked the shit out of anyone who saw it. Within 8 hours of its release, the Ravens released Ray Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. A picture is worth a thousand words, indeed and here’s where the story gets interesting. The NFL and the Ravens’ organization almost immediately began throwing up their hands and claiming not to have seen the video, despite there being multiple reports from “insider sources” for months that all evidence available to the police had been made available to the NFL.

Guess how much that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter a whit. Not one jot. Whether the NFL saw the tape when reviewing the case or not, they had the words of Ray Rice himself, who pretty accurately described what went on in that elevator. He struck her twice, the second time so hard it knocked her into the railing of the elevator which is at waist level, which put her out cold. So when doling out the original punishment, NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell knew what happened. He just hadn’t seen it (if his words are to be believed) but more importantly, WE hadn’t seen it.

The Ray Rice case is not the only domestic violence case before Goddell right now. Greg Hardy, who played in games this past weekend, is accused of beating his girlfriend and threatening to kill her after having tossed her in a pile of assault rifles and shotguns. Greg Hardy plead guilty to this crime as well, yet he hasn’t not received a suspension yet. What’s the difference in these two cases? You haven’t seen video of Greg Hardy’s crimes.

Why does it require extra, visual evidence to rouse not only the NFL but the general public against such horrendous shit? Why did hearing about Ray Rice slamming his fiancee’s head into an elevator railing not make the commissioner and the rest of the country so angry with Ray Rice that he was immediately fired and suspended? I realize that the answer is that video is so much more of a stark reminder of the impact of such actions, but it shouldn’t take a snuff film released by an online sleazemonger like TMZ to spur us into action on domestic violence.

As an example of just how bad the disconnect is for the NFL, consider the case of Michael Vick. As quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, he was one of the premiere faces of the NFL in 2007 until he was found to have owned and operated a dog fighting ring out of one of his houses. Many dogs were killed and maimed. It was a truly heinous story, and as a dog lover, it has forever prevented me from rooting for Michael Vick. He served his prison sentence but I don’t forgive him. Goddell suspended him indefinitely when the allegations arose, and he didn’t play again until 2009 after serving his prison term. That’s right, hours after pleading guilty, Michael Vick was suspended indefinitely and he wasn’t accused of hurting any human being.

You can compare the actions of the commissioner to see the relative values he places on things. Smoke a doobie? Four games. Kill a bunch of dogs in a heinous bloodsport? He’ll let you know when you can play again? So why is it that beating the shit out of a woman you profess to love enough to marry only worth two lousy games? Why did it take a video of events you already are intimately familiar with to make you give the man a punishment no worse than that received by a dog killer?

Roger Goddell KNEW what happened in that elevator before he handed out his initial punishment. He had to have known that the video existed – after all, every building that films lobby areas around elevators is likely to have video inside the elevator as well, and he already knew video from the lobby existed. Why didn’t he request the elevator footage if that’s what it took to mete out a proper punishment? And why are other players with similar or worse transgressions being allowed to play solely because their bad actions weren’t filmed?

The NFL has a clear problem with valuing women as apparently lower than dogs. That’s the only conclusion I came come up with based on the evidence of their actions. Society doesn’t appear to be much better. Women are paid less for the same work. They are still subjected to the same kind of vile harassment in the workplace and rape victims are still being told things like “you shouldn’t drink in public around men when you’re wearing those clothes.” Politicians (mostly Republican) and pundits are calling you sluts for wanting legitimate health concerns that require birth control to be covered under insurance policies and corporations are allowed to remove that option from your insurance because their translation of the Bible says so.

A society of equals requires equal protection and equal punishment. Domestic violence is a symptom of a much larger issue – the devaluation of women as equals. The NFL had a chance many months ago to show that they understood that, and instead they’ve given us this debacle. Goddell won’t step down but he probably should. Maybe he can get a job as a dogcatcher.

September 10, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Politics | No comment

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