Ray Rice, the NFL and Domestic Violence

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It was the beginning of what has become one of the worst crisis’ in the National Football League’s storied history and the downfall of one of the leagues rising star players and role models.
On February 15th, 2014, Baltimore Ravens starting running back, Ray Rice was arrested, along with his then-fiancée Janay Palmer, on charges of assault after an altercation at the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.

Issues started to arise when celebrity gossip site TMZ released security camera footage from the Revel Casino showing Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of an elevator. As a result, Rice was indicted on a third degree aggravated assault charge. Since Rice was a first-time offender, he allowed to participate in a pre-trial program to avoid prosecution and pleaded not guilty to the assault charge. In the midst of the controversy, Rice and Palmer still wed on March 28th. Rice and his wife would issue apologies within the weeks following the wedding, with Janay saying she regrets the role she played in the incident.

Rice would have a meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss face-to-face what happened in the elevator. Afterwards, the NFL would announce Rice would be suspended for the first two weeks of the NFL season. The suspension was met with overwhelming criticism from politicians and women’s rights groups that said the suspension was “too soft” for the evidence that was shown in the TMZ video and some have called for Goodell to step down. The amount of backlash to the suspension led Goodell to send a memo to all 32 NFL teams outlining a new policy for domestic violence incidents. First time offenders would receive a six game suspension and repeat offenders will be banned from the NFL. Goodell also referenced the Rice situation stating, “I didn’t get it right.”

On September 8th, TMZ released the footage from the security camera inside the elevator when Rice struck Palmer. In the video, it shows them arguing, Palmer taking a step towards Rice and Rice hitting her with a left hook, knocking her off her feet where she hit her head on a railing, knocking her out. Quick action was taken against Rice as his contract with the Ravens was terminated and he was indefinitely suspended from the league by Goodell.

This sent glaring eyes right back onto Goodell and the league offices wondering how TMZ could have obtained and released the footage before the NFL even viewed it.

Goodell would cause even more controversy during an interview with CBS Evening News on September 9th (the interview aired on the next day). In an excerpt of the interview Goodell stated that the league had not seen the video before the TMZ release. But the next day, a report from the Associated Press said that an unnamed law enforcement official had sent the in-elevator video to the league office back in April. According to the report, the source played a voicemail from the league office stating they received the tape and said, “You’re right. It’s terrible.” The source said that he doesn’t know if any league officials had reviewed the tape, but that they did have it in their possession. In the wake of all the criticism surrounding the league once again, Goodell appointed former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to lead an independent investigation into how the league handled the entire situation surrounding Ray Rice (As of October 7th, the investigation is still proceeding).

The problems didn’t end with Rice. As the Rice controversy was unfolding, the league was dealing with other new domestic violence incidents. The most noteworthy involved Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald.

Domestic violence has been a problem for a long time. Cases have come and gone from celebrity homes to the common household. Even though Rice threw one punch, he had turned most of his fans and supporters against him. It opened the eyes of the public to how gruesome domestic violence can actually be. One very disturbing statistic, according to SafeHorizon.org, says that 1 out of 4 women are/will be victims of a domestic violence incident in their lifetimes, and even worse, most domestic violence cases are never reported to authorities.

Ray Rice’s case has brought a whole new light into how domestic violence will be handled in sports and hopefully around the country, too. Being the aggressor in this instance cost Rice his job and a portion of his career and will cost others who are involved in these incidents. Any domestic violence incident should be reported to police and any victims should seek help. No one should have to put up with something as violent and senseless as domestic violence.

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