The NFL and Roger Goodell have been under fire for much of the month of August after their two-game suspension of running back Ray Rice on domestic violence charges. Earlier this week a violent video of Rice, with his at-the-time fiancé in an Atlantic City elevator, was released. The gruesome details of this video resulted in Rice being released by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely from the NFL by Commissioner Goodell.
While many are pleased that Rice is facing justice, the situation raises another more important question about how the American population views athletes. As someone who grew up viewing New York athletes such as Derek Jeter and Mark Messier as role models, I closely tracked each and every one of their moves. In today’s age of social media, every action made by celebrities is amplified and put under a huge microscope.
Rice is simply one example of an athlete who has been put in the spotlight and failed. There will likely be more athletes in the future walking this same tightrope of maintaining positive public relations, which raises questions regarding what league protocol should be.
Goodell has already acknowledged the holes in the league’s domestic violence policy and amended the punishment to six games, with a lifetime ban for second-time offenders. But is this enough? Many are calling for Goodell’s resignation after his role in butchering such an important situation.
It was just a short time ago that Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns wide receiver, was suspended for the entire year after violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. As it would have stood originally, Gordon was going to miss the entire season while Rice would have been back on the field after just two games.
The video of Rice and his fiancé released earlier this week by TMZ changed everything. Breaking in the morning for all A.M. commuters to view, Rice was dismissed by the team by mid-afternoon and suspended indefinitely by Commissioner Goodell shortly thereafter in what must have been a PR disaster for both the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL. Though the NFL consistently denied having seen the video (a statement that the authorities confirmed) the fact remains that Goodell was ready for Rice to sit out just two games after facing domestic violence charges.
While the situation may subside for now and Rice will likely disappear until a team deems it long enough to sign the running back to a new contract, it brings up an institutional issue that the NFL must fix. Years ago, Michael Vick was removed from the league for years while he recovered from his involvement in a dog-fighting scandal. Vick’s image has recovered enough that he’s back to playing football, but will Rice ever be able to do the same?
Domestic violence and dog-fighting are two completely different issues, and while both are inexcusable and should never occur, I find it difficult to see Ray Rice finding his way back into the NFL anytime soon. There is no place in the NFL for anybody who sees domestic violence as the solution.