THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE was scandalized four years ago when a security video went viral showing then-Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee and now-wife unconscious and dragging her from a hotel elevator. Outside review concluded that the league could — and should — have done more to investigate the incident. The league promised it would confront the problem of violence against women. “The same mistakes can never be repeated,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Then why did the league not even bother to interview Kansas City Chiefs player Kareem Hunt after allegations he attacked a woman in a Cleveland hotel in February? How diligent were its efforts to obtain the hotel surveillance video (which TMZ somehow managed to get its hands on) showing the assault? And why was action taken only after the league had been embarrassed by disturbing footage of one of its top running backs shoving and kicking a 19-year-old woman? Some give the Chiefs credit for cutting loose a star player. We’re more inclined to ask why they waited until he was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, preventing him from playing for another team this season.
“It should surprise me, but it doesn’t,” Kathy Redmond, founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, told ESPN.com. “These are non-investigations. It goes back to willful ignorance, and arrogance and hubris on the part of the NFL. It feels like everything the NFL does is on the surface, and to address PR and the brand they have to protect.” Her comments recall the criticism this year from Deborah Epstein, co-director of the Georgetown University Law Center’s Domestic Violence Clinic. She resigned in protest from the NFL Players Association’s commission on domestic violence because, she said, the NFLPA gives only lip service to the issue. She wrote in a Post op-ed of how scientific research and recommendations for systemic reforms have been ignored and no real action taken. She chided the league for inviting new players to join NFL teams even as they faced serious charges of physical or sexual assault.
That Washington’s football team saw no problem — only opportunity — in claiming star linebacker Reuben Foster, who had been cut by the San Francisco 49ers after his arrest for domestic assault, speaks volumes about what the league really values. “Small potatoes,” a Washington senior football executive said of Mr. Foster’s case, compared with worse acts by some people in “high, high, high, high places.” He later apologized for his tone-deaf comment but not, it should be noted, for claiming Mr. Foster.
There was an apology of sorts from Mr. Hunt, too. “It’s been a tough time for me. And I’m extremely embarrassed because of that video.” A tough time for you? Next, no doubt, Mr. Goodell and Washington owner Daniel Snyder will be asking for our sympathy, as well.