Disturbing Video of NFL Player Punching Woman Is a Game Changer
It was hard to bring myself to even watch the video that came out Monday of Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice hitting his then fiancée in an elevator. For those who share my wincing response to senseless violence, be warned: There is nothing fair in this fight, when what appears to be a verbal spat becomes very physical and one-sided (see the graphic video everywhere, from cable news to the link below).
Unsurprisingly, the professional athlete is so strong and so fast that, in a matter of seconds, Janay Palmer steps toward Rice and makes contact before he clocks her, and she smashes into the side of the elevator before falling limp to the floor. Palmer is dragged out of the elevator and appears to be unconscious.
The video released by TMZ made the rounds Monday morning, and before lunchtime, the league had suspended Rice indefinitely and his team had released him from his five-year, $35 million contract. That reverses a decision from July, when the running back was given a two-game suspension. The punishment was broadly criticized, and subsequent to fallout from the Rice incident, the NFL stepped up punishments to a six-game suspension for first offenses of domestic abuse and all incidents of violence. On announcing those changes, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that he "didn't get it right" when Rice got the wrist-slapping.
Part of the transformation on the part of the National Football League on Monday came because officials said they hadn't previously seen the more graphic footage of Rice punching Palmer. Over at Deadspin, sports reporters expressed doubt that the NFL had not seen the more violent version of what happened inside the elevator. The idea that the NFL could have seen such horrific tape of the February attack is particularly terrible—victim blaming and lying in the same stroke—but even sight unseen, strongly supported allegations of violence should be resulting in stiffer penalties for players, considering the punishments the league has doled out for other infractions.
All things are not equal, but even comparing the NFL’s beefed up anti-violence rules to the situation of a couple of pot-smoking players shows that the league isn’t placing much value on women’s lives. Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is appealing a season-long suspension for testing positive for pot. He’s one of more than a dozen players currently suspended for substance abuse—a Bloomberg op-ed points out none of those suspensions carried less than a four-game suspension.
Representatives from the league and its players union were to meet Monday to talk about players who have been suspended for smoking marijuana and broader drug policies in the league.
There is a lot that’s difficult to take about the Rice video and their relationship. A little more than six weeks following the knock-down, drag-out fight, Rice and Palmer were married. The wedding was moved up for reasons that went publicly unexplained.
The early response from the team and the NFL was hard to take too. This tweet from the Ravens from back on May 23 encapsulates so much of what is wrong with the league's attitude, as if she walked into his fist.
Of course, it also speaks volumes that despite months of online protest, the team finally took that tweet down today.