In the end, the NFL got it right. But it took way too long.
The league would have been fine with this issue being swept under the rug, but public outcry has forced its hand.
Throughout this process, the NFL has been reactive, rather than proactive. In July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed Rice a two-game ban for the same act that he was suspended indefinitely for on Monday. While the newly released footage gives a more vivid and gruesome vision of what unfolded that February night, enough of the details were known months ago.
It’s unclear if the NFL saw the entirety of the video before it handed down the initial two-game ban, but that doesn’t matter. Rice should have been out of the league back then.
After harsh criticism, Goodell has since changed the NFL’s policy on domestic violence — admitting he made a mistake with the initial ruling against Rice. First-time domestic violence offenders now face at least a six-game suspension, and second-time offenders will be banned for life.
The problem is that seeing the words “domestic violence” in print doesn’t resonate as much as watching a man punch a woman in her face. There’s no outrage from people reading court documents about abuse. But the penalty shouldn’t be harsher just because the abuse was caught on video.
Rice would have been back with the Ravens on Friday if the footage wasn’t leaked, which makes you wonder: How many players currently in the NFL have struck a woman and continue to play in the league?
In July, Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was found guilty of assaulting his former girlfriend and threatening to kill her. According to the Charlotte Observer, the judge said the evidence convinced her beyond reasonable doubt that Hardy beat his girlfriend, threw her around his apartment, then tried to hide his actions with a fabricated 911 call.
But TMZ doesn’t have a video of this, so the NFL is waiting out the appeals process before it makes a ruling on the Pro Bowl defensive end.
Meanwhile, Hardy continues to play and will make $13.1 million this year.
The NFL did right by suspending Rice indefinitely, but will it have that same reaction when it’s not provoked by public outcry over a TMZ video?
Sadly, I don’t think so.
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