While I’d never call anything in the Ray Rice situation, “funny,” there is one ironic part of the whole mess: The question of how many games a player should get for domestic violence has been completely lost.
Even a month ago, when the NFL gave Ray Rice half as much time off as they gave Wes Welker for popping a molly, presumably with Tyga and Wiz Khalifa with how much he looked like he wanted to party, very few people raised the question of just how far off the suspension was.
Obviously, it’s gotta be more than 4 games. No way you can send the message that hitting a bong and hitting a woman are just as bad. I usually stay away from using reasons like “This decision sends the message that…” or “This implies that…” because I’ve noticed that everyone in 2014 just tries to interpret things how they want to, and saying that a decision “implies” or “sends a message” or something is often just people interpreting a decision in the way that makes their opinion seem smarter. That being said, this is a clear situation. You just can’t send the message that domestic violence and recreational drug use is equal.
Goodell recently upped the automatic suspension for domestic violence to 6 games, although it’s possible that he only did that because he knew that the video was about to be released. (I wouldn’t buy that conspiracy theory if I had much respect for Roger Goodell and the league office, but I don’t.) So is 6 games right? And, more importantly than debating the numbers, is beating someone that you love, in particular a woman you love, the kind of crime that we can allow a player to come back from?
To that question, I say yes, and I don’t really have to think twice about it. While I have no respect for any case of spousal abuse, I wouldn’t suspend a guy for life because of an incident like Ray Rice’s. While I also have respect for the opinions of those who feel that it is heinous enough of a crime to ever forgive, I actually find many of these opinions somewhat naïve.
I think back to the Michael Vick fiasco. Vick served almost 2 years for what he did to hundreds of dogs, and we can debate over how long his sentence should have been. (I’m not giving an opinion simply because I have no idea whether his suspension was too long, too short, or just right.)
But more importantly for this case, let’s think back to a year and a half ago, when Vick had to cancel his book tour in March of 2013. This is the kind of thing that I really disagree with, as I’m generally skeptical of holding grudges.
The recidivism rate in this country is over 40%, and I had heard an estimate as high as 53% a few years ago. Maybe it’s because we don’t actually give people the second chances that we pretend we do. While every ex-transgressor should have much stricter limitations on him/her than the average person, such as Michael Vick being 1 transgression away from banishment from the NFL or an ex-con not being allowed to buy a gun, not enough people actually realize that out justice system should be about reconstruction and not retribution. Michael Vick’s book tour was cancelled because too many protestors, who, in my opinion, were pretty narrow-minded, decided that it was more important to stifle his message just because of what he did rather than allow his book to be sold, even though his book stressed how regretful he was of his actions and how he urged others not to get involved in dogfighting. Never allowing a guy to come back from something might allow people to put themselves on a moral high ground in their own minds, but it doesn’t actually do very much. No, what would have worked better would be letting Vick continue his book tour in order to spread his message that dogfighting is terrible – a message that the protestors obviously agreed with.
Now, the obvious difference between Ray Rice and Michael Vick is that the Atlantic City prosecutors, unlike the federal government in the Vick case, acted pathetically and didn’t punish Rice. If someone would like to make the claim that Rice shouldn’t be allowed to return while Vick should have been because Rice didn’t actually serve his time and therefore is actually less likely to learn his lesson, that’s admittedly pretty hard for me to argue with. Your opinion and mine will come down to whether the NFL should the legal system’s competence – or incompetence in this case – into consideration. I would say that it’s not on them to make up for the fact that law enforcement forgot how to do its job, but it is fair to make the case otherwise.
But, for the sake of my argument, let’s take any hypothetical NFL player who beat his wife and say that whatever punishment the NFL gives is completely irrespective of what the law does, whether the prosecutors did their jobs – or didn’t do their jobs like the idiots in AC. I just can’t see the reasoning behind suspending a guy forever. Not when the NFL, and whatever team that a guy like Rice signs with, can make him go through tons of hoops just to get back into the league, like speaking out against domestic violence on every public stage that exists. When Rice comes back, the league should instruct him to be an ambassador for actually treating your wife like a human and not a punching bag.
As for the number of games, I’d say an even half a season – 8 games – for domestic violence. But there should be certain nuances in cases like Rice’s. I’d suspend him an entire season, because it’s not like he punched her and then immediately realized his mistake and tried to make sure she was ok. He knocked her out, dragged her out of the elevator, and then didn’t give a damn. That’s worthy of a full season.
It’s hard to come up with the right number to use against a guy, especially in a situation like this. I guess the only thing we’ll all agree on is that Rice’s original 2 game suspension was a joke.