Sports

The NFL is a little too late

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 Photo from NFL.com
Photo from NFL.com

In February, former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiancé, Janay Palmer, were both arrested for their role in a domestic violence dispute at an Atlantic City hotel. Days later, a video surfaced showing Rice dragging his unconscious fiancé out of an elevator.

For the past seven months, there has been a lot of speculation about what really happened in the elevator that night. But after a new video was released by TMZ Monday showing the sequence of events leading up to the incident, there was no more speculation.

In the new video, Rice is shown striking Palmer in the face with so much force that she falls, hitting her head on the railing, knocking her unconscious. The new video led to the Ravens cutting Rice, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspending Rice indefinitely.  This means Rice will have to apply to the commissioner’s office before being reinstated.

Even with Goodell suspending Rice indefinitely, both he and the NFL are still facing heavy backlash over how they handled the entire situation prior to the release of the new video. Before the new video surfaced, the NFL only suspended Rice for two games, which is two games fewer than a player who tests positive for marijuana a first time.

With the poor handling of the situation, there was an outcry from people across the country, including domestic violence groups who reached out to the NFL.  Realizing they got it wrong, the NFL released a new domestic violence policy less than two weeks ago.  In the new policy, players are suspended for six games for the first offense, and for the second offense they are banned from the league.

When the NFL released the new policy, Goodell was quoted in a press release as saying “he didn’t get it right,” referring to his initial suspension of Rice.

There is no question Goodell got it wrong. The NFL as a whole has been flawed during their entire investigation, and they proved it again Tuesday when Goodell told CBS news, “We (the NFL) had not seen any videotape of what occurred in the elevator. We assumed that there was a video; we asked for video; we asked for anything that was pertinent, but we were never granted that opportunity.”

It is hard to believe that the NFL, a multi-billion dollar company who has numerous former, high-ranking law enforcement officials working on their security team, couldn’t get their hands on a video tape.

How is it that a much smaller organization like TMZ, with less resources, could find access to the tape, but the NFL couldn’t?

It’s an indicator that the NFL didn’t take the incident serious enough and didn’t do their due diligence during the investigation.

Since Goodell took over as commissioner in 2006, one of his main concerns has been protecting the integrity of the game and making it safer.  Goodell has referenced it as “protecting the shield,” meaning protecting the logo.

But where is the NFL’s integrity?

There is none. Besides the domestic violence issue surrounding Rice, there are two other players who have domestic charges pending against them.

Greg Hardy a defensive lineman for the Carolina Panthers was convicted of domestic violence by a district judge in North Carolina, but he appealed the judge’s decision which will now send the case to trial.

Then there’s Ray McDonald, a defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers, who was arrested and charged with suspicion of felony domestic violence Sept. 1, and less than a week later he played in the 49ers season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

Neither the league office nor those franchises have done a darn thing since the players’ arrests, and the sad thing is, this sort of thing has been going for at least the past 14 years.

Since the year 2000, 77 players have been charged with domestic violence, and only six players have been cut; that’s how much the NFL is concerned about their players involved in domestic violence cases. It took them this long to take any kind of initiative.

Of course, people are innocent until proven guilty, but when a player has been charged with a serious crime such as domestic violence, they should not be allowed to participate in any NFL activities until they are proven innocent and cleared of the charges.

The NFL, along with every other professional sports league, needs to start showing players that it’s a privilege to play professional sports.

If I were the commissioner, Ray Rice would be banned from the NFL, and I’m sure that’s the feeling by most of the general public, but the NFL has a track record of reinstating players who have committed serious crimes.

They’re about to reinstate Josh Brent who was responsible for a person’s death while driving under the influence. So while I expect him to be reinstated a year or two from now, I don’t expect him to ever play in the NFL again. He’s a 27 year old running back, and no team will want to bring him into their organization.

The NFL has ignored incidents of players’ violence against women for too long, but they are finally starting to get the message. While suspending Rice indefinitely was the first step in the right direction, the NFL still has a long way to go toward cleaning up the league and gaining any trust back from women across the country.