Donate

Columns

Feldman ’15: A Ray of mismanagement

By
Opinions Columnist
Thursday, September 18, 2014

Almost seven months ago, police arrested former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for domestic violence. Now, new information is still being released about the details of the case. At this point, video evidence has shown everyone what occurred. Footage depicts Janay Palmer, Rice’s fiancee at the time, confronting him in an elevator and Rice responding by knocking her unconscious.

Domestic violence should be awful enough by itself, but the NFL somehow managed to find a way to make the situation even worse. TMZ released a video, first on Feb. 19, showing Rice drag his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator, and then released a second video on Sept. 8 actually showing the events in the elevator. The second video shows a professional athlete, whose job involves training his body to withstand and deliver physical punishment, using that training to punch his fiancee. Rice strikes with such speed and force that it’s difficult to see his arm move even when watching in slow motion.

Normally, if one were to think of a trial lasting seven months, it would be due to a prolonged court trial, not just the decision to suspend an employee. But through incompetence, ignorance or corrupt intent, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the rest of the league’s office turned the focus of the incident from the brutality of domestic violence to their incapability of dealing with player activities. This makes the Rice situation even more appalling.

Much of the mishandling of the situation directly results from Goodell’s denial of seeing the footage of the incident inside the elevator, even though reports have surfaced stating that the police had sent the footage to both the NFL and Rice’s lawyer. Goodell also claims that what Rice told him occurred in the elevator was ambiguous, even though Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said Rice told the truth.

It is extremely unlikely that the league had no idea about what took place in that elevator. Footage has been available to the public for months that showed Rice drag his unconscious fiancee from the elevator and leave her passed out on the floor. Even if that were all the information available, it would have been enough to say that something violent happened in that elevator. But the NFL must have known more than that. This is the same league that works with the FBI to monitor everything its players do from before they are even drafted. It’s a safe bet to expect that if footage exists of a crime any NFL player committed, the NFL has access to it.

Originally, Goodell suspended Rice for only two games, justifying the relatively minor punishment by stating that Rice had no past history of domestic violence. But in the first video, after Rice hauls Palmer out of the elevator, he just stands around until a security guard walks up. If this was actually the first time any sort of domestic violence occurred, Rice should have been panicking or calling for an ambulance — an injury like that could have caused serious trauma, and one would expect a fiancee to show adequate concern.

Eventually, enough public backlash caused Goodell to admit his mistake in a letter sent around the league. To prevent such an insufficient future punishment for domestic violence, the policy for first-time offenders was changed to a six-game suspension. But after the public saw the second video, and the Ravens terminated Rice’s contract, Goodell then handed out an indefinite suspension for the exact same offense. Never mind the fact that Rice was already unemployed and no team was about to offer him a new contract. Not only is his indecisiveness detrimental to the league, but it also sets a horrendous precedent of instituting double jeopardy.

Rice should have originally been given an indefinite suspension. He needs the time away from football to focus on rehabilitation. Any sort of finite suspension functions the same as getting a speeding ticket — after one pays the fine and gets back in the car, it’s easy to forget about being punished and do it again. Also, an indefinite suspension requires applying for reinstatement, so the commissioner would be able to ensure the player were sincerely rehabilitated.

While Rice should have been given an indefinite suspension months ago, giving him one now after he was already sentenced is an abuse of power. Instead of issuing and sticking to a single strong statement, Goodell threatens every other NFL player with the risk of being tried twice in future proceedings. His questionable expansion of power also allows some fans to sympathize with Rice’s supposed plight and forget the fact that he is not the victim — Palmer is.

The NFL is a multi-billion dollar organization whose commissioner has earned $74 million over the last two years. With all the revenue and influence the NFL possesses, it requires a strong commissioner who can hold the league to the highest moral standards. Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, just navigated his league through a tumultuous time of racism by successfully removing the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling. NFL fans both need and deserve a commissioner who can properly handle a league that is so impressionable on their children.

As Goodell wrote in a letter to Rice explaining the punishment, “The league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public, and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game. This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.”

Goodell contradicts his own statement. Through this scandal, Goodell has displayed questionable integrity, which has elevated the public’s distrust of the NFL. It would seem that by Goodell’s own admission, the league can no longer tolerate him as commissioner. Rice committed the crime, but Goodell’s ineffective handling of the situation belittled the magnitude of domestic violence, and he enabled it to continue. A two-game suspension doesn’t seem sufficient for either party.

 

 

Andrew Feldman ’15 regrets that this case was decided by Roger Goodell rather than an actual judge and can be reached at andrew_feldman@brown.edu with suggestions on how the NFL can better manage its players.

To stay up-to-date, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*