Normally I would say that the United States Government has better things to do than worry about the business of a specific professional sports league. That’s not the case here. In all of its success, the National Football League is not your ordinary pro sports league. And domestic violence is an issue that all Americans should take seriously.
So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that three members of the United States Congress have written a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to reconsider the ridiculous two-game suspension that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice received for “allegedly” beating his then fiancee unconscious earlier this offseason. The letter read in part…
The decision to suspend Mr. Rice for a mere two games sends the inescapable message that the NFL does not take domestic or intimate-partner violence with the seriousness they deserve. Mr. Rice’s suspension reflects a disturbingly lenient, even cavalier attitude towards violence against women.
Judy Harris Kluger, the executive director of Sanctuary for Families and a former judge in New York City had this to say about the obvious double standard as it relates to punishment in the NFL (via Miami Herald).
The first time with marijuana is different from the first time you are knocking your wife unconscious.
While not necessarily true in the grand scheme of things, it’s still a point well taken. For example, Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater received a four-game suspension for what was a repeat offense of the NFL’s policy on substance abuse. Meanwhile, Rice received two games for a domestic violence incident that he has since copped to. This isn’t even taking into account the well-documented Josh Gordon situation.
Mark Wynn, a former Nashville police officer, who has worked for years to prevent violence against women, chimed in.
The stronger voice of the NFL about this that we have no tolerance for violence against women, no tolerance of coercion, no tolerance of objectifying women, that to me would be a real pivotal moment for professional sports where they say enough is enough.
Wynn also concluded that victims of domestic violence don’t normally call for help until the fifth incident.
This fits the statistics that have been reported by leading experts recently. According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 77 percent of women between the ages of 18-34 who have been victims of domestic violence were previously victimized by the same offender.
While not drawing a conclusion about Rice’s specific situation, this is an alarming number. It’s also a representation that violence against women is a growing epidemic in the United States. With the NFL’s place on the national stage front and center right now, the league has failed to act on this growing concern over and over again.
Once Rice’s suspension was announced, the response from those around the football world and others wasn’t exactly friendly to the league.
Despite a recent report that the NFL may very well begin to impose stiffer penalties on domestic violence offenders, we have not heard much from Goodell and Co. regarding not only the Rice situation but the broader issue as it relates to violence against women in the league.
Until that happens, the criticism should continue to be directed at the league office in New York City and those in charge of “protecting the shield.”