A League Of Its Own
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A League Of Its Own

Domestic violence has no place in professional football, but don't tell the NFL that.

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A League Of Its Own
Statesman

It’s no secret that professional athletes have been known to get into trouble. Whether it is substance abuse, gambling, weapons charges or DUIs, we usually can’t go a week without seeing an athlete in the headlines for some wrongdoing. However, for the most part, these athletes get a second chance, and perhaps rightfully so. Everyone makes mistakes. With that being said, though, not everyone deserves a second chance. Where do we draw the line when it comes to "mistakes"?

In the past two years, numerous high-profile NFL players have been accused of domestic violence — senseless, violent beatings on women. And yet time and again, these men, making millions of dollars every year, usually get off with a light suspension and a small blemish on their celebrity image. While it is unquestionable that the players involved in these incidents bear the responsibility for these crimes, an in-depth look at these incidents shows episodic negligence by NFL executives, team owners and even us — the NFL fan base.

Take, for example, the case of former NFL All-Pro running back Ray Rice. In February 2014, Rice was arrested for domestic violence at a casino in Atlantic City. After the NFL got wind of Rice’s actions, Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for two games. Two games. This suspension would be the first major mistake by the NFL. Almost instantly, fans, media and activists shunned Goodell for his leniency on such a serious case. Both his authority and character were called into question. The idea that an athlete could commit as severe a crime as domestic violence and walk away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist made the NFL look like a mockery. Strike one.

The NFL’s second major mistake came also as a result of the Rice incident. In September 2014, video footage surfaced of Rice’s February attack on his then-fiancé, Janay Palmer. The video depicted Rice punching Palmer in the face in an elevator, knocking her out cold and then dragging her limp body out of the elevator. The video evidence of was irrefutable and public opinion was loud and clear: Rice had to go. Following the release of the video, league officials suspended Rice indefinitely. Speculation arose that this indefinite suspension could ultimately lead to Rice’s banishment from the NFL. However, this was not the case. Rice elected to appeal his suspension and he was ultimately reinstated. This is when things started to fall apart for Roger Goodell and the NFL. During Rice’s appeal hearings, reports began to surface that the NFL had received footage of the incident as early as April of 2014, yet the league failed to release the footage or take further action against Rice. This, of course, led the public to believe that Goodell had attempted to cover up the video. But what incentive would Roger Goodell have to cover up evidence against one of the NFL’s most prized players? Well, only every incentive imaginable, with money, money and money being in the top three.

Had the video been hidden from the public eye, Ray Rice never would have been released by the Baltimore Ravens. Had the video been hidden from the public eye, the NFL wouldn’t have lost revenue from jersey and ticket sales for one of the league’s most prolific athletes. Now of course, this is all speculative. For all we know, Goodell had the best of intentions *cough*. Maybe he really didn’t see the see the video until seven months after it had occurred *cough, cough*. But it is hard to imagine that one of the wealthiest sports institutions in the world — with a security force the size of a mid-America city police force — didn’t have the resources to fully vet this event. Strike two.

The nail in the coffin for the NFL came in May 2014 when then Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was arrested for beating, choking and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend. Following a thorough investigation, the Panthers released Hardy. In addition, in April 2015, Roger Goodell suspended Hardy for 10 games without pay, a punishment significantly harsher than that of Ray Rice. Although an arbitrator eventually lowered Hardy’s suspension to four games, this looked like it was going to be a significant win for the NFL. Roger Goodell was finally taking decisive action — or so it seemed.

Enter Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who decided Hardy deserved a second chance. The Cowboys organization offered Hardy an $11.3 million (let that sink in) contract and showed support for him during his suspension. However, all of that support looked like it would vanish when photos of the victim’s injuries were released. Bruises and cuts covered the young woman’s face and back. By no means should the defensive end have been given any support after these photos surfaced, but once again, true to NFL fashion, that wasn’t the case. In fact, Jerry Jones provided even more support for Hardy after the photos surfaced. Strike three.

It is indisputable that the blame for this violent conduct falls squarely on the players involved. Their actions are, or at least should be, indefensible. Yet we would be remiss if we failed to call out the league office and owners for their failure to swiftly and decisively make a statement against player misconduct — especially when that misconduct is domestic violence. To be fair, there are 1,700 athletes in the NFL and only a minute percentage, less than one percent, have had allegations of domestic violence leveled against them. But when it comes down to it, all of these players are grouped together. They make up the NFL; collectively, they are our Sunday afternoons.

And this leads to the final observation. If we blame the NFL front office, the owners and the players, shouldn’t we also blame ourselves, the rabid NFL fan base? We constantly take to social media to post our disgust with the NFL and we’ve made Roger Goodell public enemy number one, yet we keep feeding this conduct every Sunday afternoon. We condemn the NFL to no end, but we never turn them off.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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