Ravens, NFL get it wrong — again

Ray Rice decision is about saving the brand, not domestic violence

September 08, 2014|By Susan Reimer, The Baltimore Sun

I am so angry right now, I should get a two-game suspension.

The National Football League and the Baltimore Ravens have sacrificed running back Ray Rice on the altar of their public image. His firing was cynical and expedient and has absolutely nothing to do with domestic abuse.

As soon as video from inside the casino elevator was made public — confirming what we already knew from the police report, that Rice hit his then-fiancee hard enough to knock her unconscious — the team terminated his contract.

And the NFL, which claims — counter to other reports — that it had never seen the video before, made sure no other team would give him a job by suspending him indefinitely.

What Ray Rice did was reprehensible, but he and Janay Palmer, who are now married, are in court-ordered counseling. Their relationship may survive and flourish. But there is no redemption for a team and a league that can't figure out how it feels about its employees hitting women.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he got the message when public reaction to his two-game suspension of Rice turned to outrage. So the league scrambled to write new rules about beating women. Let's have penalties somewhere between smoking marijuana and vehicular homicide, somebody must have suggested. But not as serious as shooting yourself in the butt with your own gun in a nightclub.

Here's the problem.

The NFL cannot look like police, judge and jury without also looking the fool. How does the NFL balance, on the scales of justice, objectionable behavior on one side and a certain number of games on the other? There's no proportion there.

The response of New Jersey prosecutors might have been flawed, but Rice was being punished in accordance with the law. That's how this should be addressed.

Firing him is about preserving the brand. It is not about protecting women or serving justice or setting a good example for little kids. We are surrounded by hypocrites, and they are winning.

I object to the fact that we even care what the Ravens or the NFL think about Ray Rice's behavior. I can't stomach the idea that a multibillion-dollar entertainment enterprise sets standards for anything except yards per carry.

The only thing more hideous than allowing the NFL to set punishment for beating women is letting the NCAA set punishments for molesting children. That is not the business they are in. It is not what they are good at. It isn't anything they know anything about. Just negotiate the television contracts and pass out the money. Leave crime and punishment to the legal system.

I am going to get pounded for this, but my heart goes out to Ray Rice. He's being made an example of. His head is on a pike at the city gate to warn everybody else of the penalty they will pay if they smack their girlfriends around. Not that any furious man ready to coldcock an irritating woman will check his swing because he remembers what happened to that guy Ray Rice.

Joining this race to the bottom of the pond are the Baltimore taverns that are offering free pizza or free drinks for anyone turning in their Ray Rice jersey. Seriously? Not handguns, but Ray Rice jerseys. The girlfriend (now wife) of Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs claimed that he roughed her up and poured bleach on her. Can I get some nachos for his jersey? A glass of wine? As a woman, I can't tell you how cherished I feel right now.

And Fox News commentators chimed in by suggesting that Janay — wink, wink, nudge, nudge — take the stairs next time. It is hard to believe the bar is set that low, but there you are.

There is some good that can come from this. There is talk of the "rice bucket challenge" to raise awareness and money for women's shelters. It looks like House of Ruth in Baltimore will be getting some $27 checks, reflecting Rice's jersey number.

And there is something else. This charade of indignation and accountability being played in front of women allows us to see just what the guys are thinking about us. And they are not.

sreimer@baltsun.com

@SusanReimer on Twitter.com

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