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“The NFL’s Twisted Sense Of Justice”: The Priorities Are Wildly Out Of Proportion

Where would NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have gotten the idea that a two-game suspension was an appropriate sanction against a player who beat up his fiancée? Maybe from the example set by prosecutors and the criminal justice system.

Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice yesterday was cut from the team and suspended indefinitely by the NFL. But that obvious punishment came long after the attack, and only after the NFL – rather improbably – said it had just seen a damning video of the event.

The grainy, jerky tape is sickening. There’s a beefy professional football player, beating his then-fiancee Janay unconscious and proceeding to drag her out of the elevator like she was a too-heavy sack of potatoes.

For this behavior, Rice initially got a two-game suspension – not much to complain about when you have a $35 million contract and have collected more than $28 million from the league already. He avoided not just jail, but even probation, and was instead slapped on the knuckles with a “diversionary” program. What’s more, the Ravens stood by their domestic abuser, tweeting that “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”

It’s hard to separate out who is the worst actor here. Rice himself is an obvious choice. There’s no way to interpret the terrifying video other than to conclude that he beat the woman he supposedly loved until she fell helplessly onto an elevator floor, unable to even get out of the car, while her husband-to-be slung her onto the floor and pushed her legs together with his foot. That’s the sort of behavior that will get you, at the least, a personal foul in the NFL – that’d be 15 yards – when done to another muscled and football-padded man. But little happened to Rice when he did it to a much smaller and weaker woman.

That brings us to the Ravens, who had the insensitivity to treat the abuse like it was just a little couple’s spat, and worse, suggested that the victim herself was at fault. The fact that Janay Rice commented on her “role” in the assault only proves how endangered she was and is – and anyone who has an elementary school level of education, or who has watched even a single episode of “Law and Order: SVU,” ought to know that.

Then there is the NFL, whose authorities claimed not to have seen the videos – a more detailed one was revealed this week – that show the brutal assault. One wonders how that is even possible, unless Goodell was determined to stick his head in the AstroTurf to protect the right of players to be violent, and the mission of teams to keep them amped up and aggressive.

But Rice still avoids time behind bars, which is no surprise. The criminal justice system takes the same distorted and twisted view of infractions as has the NFL. A first-time drug offender in the NFL, for example, can get a four-game suspension without pay; a third-timer could go a year without pay. That’s much worse than the penalties imposed – and recently increased, in light of the Rice incident – for pounding your fiancée into unconscious submission.

And in the criminal justice system? Rapists, who do the math, can feel pretty confident. Just three out of 100 rapists will spend a day behind bars, according to an analysis of Justice Department statistics by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, a victims’ advocacy group. While one in five women will be raped at least once in her lifetime and one in three women will experience some kind of domestic abuse, the Centers for Disease Control recently reported, fewer than half of rapes are reported, since victims are afraid to come forward. A fourth of reported rapes result in arrests, and a fourth of arrests end up with a felony conviction or incarceration, according to the victims’ advocacy group.

But for drugs? The average sentence for a federal drug offender is about six years and for a crack cocaine violator, eight years.

The NFL – and Goodell’s – priorities are wildly out of proportion, putting abuse of a person’s own body ahead of the assault of a woman’s body. But the example set by prosecutors and the criminal code are just as bad.


By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, September 9, 2014

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Domestic Violence, National Football League, Violence Against Women | , , , , | Leave a comment


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