Ray Rice has thrown the sports world into a tizzy and as everyone jumps on board to do the right thing and destroy this domestic abuser and crush anyone who says anything other than burn Ray Rice at the stake, I'd like to take this moment to note that our professional sports leagues are not a justice system.
First, of course I believe domestic violence is a serious issue. I could not contemplate ever hitting someone, nor could I contemplate being in a relationship where someone was abusive towards me. As a country, we should look to see what we can do to stop domestic violence.
The groups of people who hold this issue near and dear to their heart and are already looking to stop it should use the media attention here to rally the troops and get whatever benefit they can.
That said, let's not point our fingers at our professional sports leagues, and let's not get too carried away with burning Ray Rice at the stake. The only difference between Ray Rice and tons of other domestic abusers (take Brandon Marshall as an example who probably has 5-6 reported incidents since entering the league), is that he was caught on video.
We read domestic disturbance or read that he hit his girlfriend, and it doesn't make nearly so big an impact as seeing exactly what it looks like for someone with 100 lbs of muscle mass to lay someone out with a punch. We minimize it when we don't have the video. The only thing separating Ray Rice from Brandon Marshall is a video and the fact that Marshall's been abusive significantly more times.
Is Ray Rice a first time offender? Who knows. I rather doubt it. I doubt that in the first time he ever resorted to inappropriate physical contact with his girlfriend he just happened to get caught on tape. Given how quickly everyone agreed to not press charges, my guess is this has happened before, but who knows.
Should Ray Rice be punished? Yes. By our legal system. That's what it's there for. People are going nuts criticizing the NFL over whether they saw the tape, whether they knew, whether they elected to only give him two games anyway. If the courts can't convict someone why the hell are you expecting the NFL to do it?
Should the NFL do something extra to Ray Rice? Perhaps. They should draft a policy that makes sense. That has some bar for what constitutes "conviction" by NFL standards, and they should apply it evenly to all players.
However, the NFL isn't interested in doing that. They're interested in just following whatever silly public mandate is going on right now to protect their brand. They want the appearance of acting morally, not actually acting morally.
It's not morally correct to craft a punishment specifically for Ray Rice because he's caught on video while some dude on the Carolina Panthers is actually convicted of something worse in a court of law and is still playing until his appeal process plays out.
No one gives a crap about what's right though, they just want to follow through and enact vengeance because they had a visceral reaction to a video.
It's not right to crucify Rice because you've now seen the video showing what you already knew happened. It's not right to end his career while every other domestic abuser has no punishment at all whatsoever. That's not right.
It's not right for the NFL to see all the tapes of Ray Rice and give him two weeks, then come back later with no new evidence and give him an indefinite suspension.
It's not right to craft a policy, then a tape is released showing what you already saw, and then change the policy.
It's not right to punish Rice above and beyond both of the policies you created due to this incident.
I'm as disgusted as the next guy in what Ray Rice did. I'm totally fine if the league wants to ban Ray Rice for what he did. However, if the league is going to take such a stand of becoming moral police, then it should be reflected in its policy. It should then go back and ban every other domestic abuser presently playing.
It shouldn't just decide to follow the public, whom loves a good witch hunt, in whatever mandate they feel is great for today.
But you know what? Maybe it's time to call off the witch hunt on the NFL as well. Maybe it's time to stop expecting employers to act as a secondary justice system. Maybe it's simply not the NFL's job to prosecute players over things we can't convict them in a court of law for. We have a court of law for a reason.
We have amendments in our constitution for a reason. Sometimes the strictness of our court of law sucks. Sometimes free speech sucks. However, both are a hell of a lot better than living in a society where there effectively are no rules except what the public mandates at the time.
That's exactly what world we'd like to the NFL to create, and it's one that I doubt any of us would want to live in.
I'm not defending Rice or his actions. However, it's time to stop pinning this on the NFL as if it's their issue. Where's the outrage at the actual system which is paid to do this kind of work?
Almost none of the ideas I've read discussing this whole thing actual make any attempt to help domestic abuse in a meaningful way. It's the NFL trying to protect itself and the public going on a witch hunt. And you know what? I have no better ideas either. Some problems are really hard to solve. If they weren't they wouldn't be problems anymore.
I'm glad awareness is being brought up on the issue of domestic violence. I hope something good comes from that awareness, but whatever actions are taken need to be taken evenly and sensibly. So far, that's not what's happening, we're just on a witch hunt.
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