Sept 8,2014(ISN) – A slap or a shove doesn’t lead to domestic assault; it is domestic assault. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, a five foot eight inch, 210 pound missile of chiseled muscle, was charged after an incident in February where he was captured on video dragging his unconscious fiancee off of an elevator at an Atlantic City casino.
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell inexplicably issued a powder puff punishment, a two game suspension that despite the obvious hefty hit to Rice’s paycheck, could not have sent a worse message from a league that promotes itself as devoted to doing the right thing.
I would like to think the media played a significant role in Goodell’s recent decision to up the ante significantly, following a scathing indictment of the original suspension by Sports Illustrated columnist Phil Taylor in the August 4 issue of that widely respected weekly publication. If you don’t think that article hit the commissioner’s desk with a thud within hours of its release, your naivety is out of bounds.
Goodell has admitted the two-game suspension was a flagrant foul, and recently announced further domestic assault charges would result in much stiffer punishment. In the future, six games for a first offense, and a lifetime ban for a second transgression is the new price to be paid by abusers. And that applies to everyone in the NFL family, from coaches and players to trainers and ticket takers.
Goodell barely had time to recover from surgery after jerking his knee when within days of the league’s decree, San Francisco 49er defensive tackle Ray McDonald, all 290 pounds of him, was arrested on felony domestic assault charges. Now I’m all for supporting the legal premise of innocent until proven guilty. But McDonald was allowed to suit up Sunday for San Francisco’s season opener, and you can bet his lawyers are working overtime to ensure he plays as many games as possible before the poop sticks in a court system that’s manipulated by the colour of big money. Call it damage control for a defense already depleted by the loss of linebacker Aldon Smith for nine games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. A six game hit on the chin caused by losing another key player could be the difference in whether the team makes the playoffs or plays in the Super Bowl.
Unless the NFL institutes a mandatory training session that educates players and team personnel about the causes and symptoms of domestic abuse, it’s only a question of how many more charges are laid. A league that makes billions on the backs of its athletes can surely afford to take a prevention approach to the problem instead of simply doling out punishment. Hire the cream of the crop of experts in the field and establish an unwavering focus on eliminating domestic abuse before it happens, as opposed to merely trying to punish the problem away.
The NFL should take a giant leap and establish itself as the first professional sports league that actually gets it by committing the necessary resources to educating the young, impressionable, instant millionaires we worship on Sundays. Make them listen to what the people who specialize in identifying the warning signs have to say about preventing domestic abuse. Maybe if all players were forced to hear the horror stories directly from women who had their lives turned upside down by violence, more players would learn how to make the right choice, get the help they need, or walk away instead of swinging away.