The Ray Rice domestic violence controversy begs questions and says something not so pleasant regarding hypocrisy in our society.
Seven months ago, the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens football star Rice assaulted his girlfriend Janay Palmer (now his wife) in an elevator of a casino in Atlantic City. The NFL subsequently announced an incredibly light two-game suspension for the three-time Pro Bowl running back on July 24.
It has taken videos of the event to cause his Baltimore Ravens team and the National Football League to apparently take this act of brutality seriously. A two-game suspension? Really? Rice knocks a woman cold with a brutal punch and his team and the NFL responds with a two-game suspension.
Better late than never, the Ravens did cut their running back a few hours after the video appeared on the web and the NFL has suspended him indefinitely.
The video seems to have changed everything. Players are expressing outrage and appear ashamed and angry at the league’s inaction until its hand was forced. Sports media and the general public are, of course, full of righteous condemnation. In fact, the video element of this story has dominated sports radio since it broke.
Every right-minded person agrees, men—especially 206 lb running backs—should never punch a woman, or a man, for that matter. Let’s take that as a given, beyond defense or rationalization.
But why the apparent surprise that this has taken place? And how about the fact Janay Rice, the victim, has broken her silence and seems to be defending her husband in a message on her official Instagram account?
American football is a bone crushing game in which violence and anger is not only commonly displayed, but is expected and cheered. One need only think back to the 1985 match between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants when Lawrence Taylor tackled former Canadian league quarterback Joe Theisman with such force Theisman's leg snapped in two. One of the most brutal things I’ve seen on or off the gridiron.
And Football, NFL style, is no less brutal in 2014.
Yet, the NFL is among the most watched and most heavily covered by the sports media. Millions enjoy it’s games on Sundays and cheer the violence along with the finer elements, of which there are many.
One wonders, however, why anyone would expect these hundreds of football players to return home on Mondays and lead normal, violence-free family lives?
Medical experts, apparently, believe repeated blows to the head will sometimes lead to some form of mental illness and even suicide. (Shortly before committing suicide, a former player for the Chicago Bears Dave Duerson reportedly asked his family to donate his brain to researchers of football injuries.)
It is no stretch at all for me to understand that some of these young men will not be able to turn off their aggression and violent behaviour just because a game has ended. And, when they can’t, domestic violence will sometimes be the result.
We pay for it, we promote it, we consume it, we reward it, on the field, but when inevitably violence occurs off the field we act surprised. And when a women is at the receiving end we are outraged. Don’t we believe in root causes?
Perhaps the saddest element of this whole sordid affair is the reaction of poor Janay Rice, the victim. This unfortunate woman seems stuck in one of the early stages of Battered Woman Syndrome: Denial or Guilt, and needs professional help to move through to Enlightenment and Responsibility as described on this Webpage. I can think of no other explanation for why she would marry a man that punched her unconscious and treated her the way we saw in the videos.
Perhaps the NFL and/or the Baltimore Ravens will help Mrs. Rice get the professional help she needs, leading to one positive result from this mess.