By Bobby Gibbons,
It’s been a couple of weeks since Ray Rice won his appeal of his indefinite suspension, and was reinstated into the National Football League. This means he is available for any team in the league to sign him to a contract. The Baltimore Ravens released Rice on September 8th, immediately following the release of the video of Rice hitting his then fiancée and now wife, Janay Rice. Whether Rice will be picked up by another team still remains to be seen. Teams would have to be willing to handle a lot of public relations backlash, and a lot of publicity, which may not be a helpful distraction when trying to win football games, especially heading into the playoffs.
Since the arrest for domestic assault on February 15th 2014, the whole situation has been a rollercoaster of events. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell originally handed Rice a two game suspension, but after the release of the actual elevator footage of Rice knocking out Janay Rice with a punch to the face, there was immediate uproar on social media. This led to Goodell handing out an indefinite suspension. Although few will disagree with the severity of this punishment, it comes as a contradiction to what the previous NFL actions. There are countless players in the last decade to be arrested on the same charges, and to only serve the two game suspensions. However, with social media being as popular and powerful as it is today, along with the actual video footage of this event, Goodell decided to backtrack on his first punishment, and hand out a worse one. In the end, this is what led to Rice winning his appeal. Judge Barbara Jones, who was the arbitrator in his appeal, believed that evidence showed that Rice did not lie to or misinform the league on the events of that night, and was truthful of admitting to what happened. She decided that it was unfair of Goodell to punish Rice for the same crime twice, which is known in the courts as Double Jeopardy. I completely agree with this decision by Judge Jones. Although I believe Rice should have received more than two games, I think that Goodell managed to make himself, and the NFL, the bad guy in this case scenario. And from I’ve heard from asking people around the Assumption campus, many agree.
I met with Assumption’s PALMS group on campus. PALMS stands for Positively Achieving Leadership through Men in Society. The general consensus was that the NFL was very hypocritical in this case, and did a poor job of handling it. Stories are now coming out that the NFL and the Ravens organization had asked Janay Rice to apologize for her role in the event in a press conference, which we all felt to be completely absurd if true. (Is it true? See Baltimore Sun’s report)
This entire 10-month period was full of the NFL continuing to cover their own butts. One student, Abdul Rauf, brought up a good point about Goodell. He stated that since Goodell had acted as “Judge, Jury, and Executioner” of the League punishments, he must also take the responsibility for mistakes made by the league. If he wishes to have all of the power, he must take all of the responsibility. He has yet to come out and speak since Judge Jones reinstated Ray Rice. The reinstatement of Rice basically is saying that not only was Goodell wrong in the way he handled this situation, but also was not completely truthful. Goodell may be sticking with the story that he was unaware of a video being out there of this event. Although this is completely ridiculous, seeing as how there is video outside of the elevator, and almost all elevators have camera in them in this day and age. This, along with the fact that the NFL is a billion-dollar organization with former members of the FBI working for them, makes it pretty much impossible for anyone to believe he had not seen the video. But even if he had not seen the video, it was due to him not putting in the effort to do so. Which brings me to a couple of years ago, when members of the New Orleans Saints for fined and suspended for putting “Bounties” on opposing players. Goodell suspended the Saints’ Head Coach Sean Payton for one year, stating that “Ignorance is not an excuse.” Even though Payton said he had no knowledge of the Bounty system, Goodell punished him anyways.
In the 30-minute discussion I had with PALMS, we also discussed some comparisons to the Rice situation. When talking about whether Rice deserves a second chance, Mike Vick’s name was brought up. In 2007, Mike Vick was arrested on dog fighting charges, and served two years of jail time. After his release, Vick had the help of former coach Tony Dungy to help rehab his name, and ultimately get him a second chance to play in the league. The general sense of everyone was it would not be enough for Rice to just apologize, because it would not be taken as genuine. Dean Conway Campbell had this to say, ”If he never plays in the NFL, and still uses this, it would show, to me, some real heart.” I completely agree with this statement. It would be one thing for Rice to become a leader of the fight for stopping domestic abuse if he played in the NFL. This would seem like a public relations scheme just to help clear his name and allow him to play. If Rice is serious about helping out and clearing his name, he would help raise awareness to stop domestic abuse, regardless of if he plays in the NFL again.
This whole situation is a blemish on not only Ray Rice, but especially on the NFL as a whole. Not only has the NFL handled this poorly in the past year, but they have handled it poorly in the past decade. It was not until a video came out that the NFL took domestic abuse seriously. However, it is better late than never, and hopefully the NFL will continue to improve on their system of punishment, and clean up how everyone, not just the players, behave. But in order to do so, Roger Goodell must take responsibility, and start practicing what he preaches.