A week to remember for the NFL
The world saw a surveillance video of Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée, now-wife with a punch in a casino elevator. TMZ published the video; a shorter version not showing the punch—though still showing Rice dragging his limp partner out of the elevator—was made public over a month ago.
Rice, a star running back for the Baltimore Ravens, wasn’t legally charged; he agreed to undergo counselling instead of facing judicial punishment. In July, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games and was widely criticized for being too lenient. However, in light of the longer video, the Ravens terminated Rice’s player contract and Goodell effectively banned Rice from the league for an indefinite time.
A vocal minority of fans and pundits question whether Goodell is being honest when he says he hadn’t already seen the knockout punch when handing down the two-game suspension. They doubt whether a business and cultural juggernaut like the NFL would be unable to get a surveillance video that celebrity tabloid TMZ has managed to find.
The NFL announced an investigation would be done by former FBI director Robert Mueller and overseen by two well-known team owners, John Mara (New York Giants) and Art Rooney (Pittsburgh Steelers). The conflict of interest is easy to see: Goodell has made all team owners even richer during his tenure, and Mueller works for a law firm that’s negotiated major deals for the league (NBC Sports).
The Thursday night game featured the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was in Baltimore and both teams had other star players with past allegations, though not necessarily charges, of domestic violence or sexual assault against them (Mashable). The pre-recorded musical opening was even going to be a Rihanna song until it was cancelled.
It was like the NFL foresaw everything when they scheduled the game months ago. The home team was at the center of the scandal, the visiting team was the widely popular division rival, the weeknight scheduling made the game the only one to watch, the new broadcasting deal aired the game on a major network, and the opening entertainer was infamously a victim of domestic abuse. The Ravens won 26-6 and, ratings-wise, so did the NFL and CBS.
Adrian Peterson, a superstar running back for the Minnesota Vikings, was charged with negligent injury to a child; Peterson allegedly used a tree branch to excessively hit his son as a form of corporal punishment. Peterson turned himself into authorities in his home state of Texas and his team announced he was deactivated for this week’s game.
Greg Hardy, a Pro Bowl defensive lineman with the Carolina Panthers, was in the news again for his incident of domestic violence. Audio of 911 calls were released from a July incident for which Hardy was convicted. His team stated he wouldn’t be deactivated for their upcoming game…
…but the team reversed their decision only hours before their game.
Goodell, the team executives, and the players association need to develop and implement a league-wide, prevention-intervention program after things settle down. I’m sure they have access to basic resources, but they obviously need to do more planning.
I don’t know how the rates of domestic violence among NFL players compare to the general population, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re significantly higher for players. These men have been conditioned since adolescence for the primitive violence of football. Their jobs involve complex scenarios and equally complex solutions, but grabbing and hitting people is still the core of their profession.
As for Goodell, I don’t think he’s lying when he says he hadn’t seen the full video beforehad. I do think he’s had access to it all along; otherwise the NFL not having the full video, for all their power and influence, is embarrassing. I think Goodell delayed seeing it until he met with Rice, and then afterward he trusted Rice enough to decide the full video could be shelved.
If he’s lied about not seeing or not having the full video, then Goodell should be reprimanded. I would be stunned if he left his position, by resignation or by termination, though. I can understand why some fans are calling for him to be fired, even for boycotts of the NFL, and why other fans just want to watch the games.
This past week could be known as a week to forget, but I hope everyone involved in the NFL will use the revelations of this past week as points of discussion to make well-thought solutions to these problems.