The NFL didn’t banish Ray Rice because they saw that tape of Ray Rice coldcocking his fiancé in an Atlantic City elevator.
They banished Ray Rice because you saw that tape.
Don’t let that fact slip through the cracks as “the shield” begins what is sure to be a massive propaganda campaign. An undertaking to get their fans to forget they were this close to wriggling free from the whole mess and walking away like nothing happened.
It was on the verge of becoming old news. Rice had been punished, Roger Goodell had issued a mea culpa about said punishment and revamped the league’s domestic abuse policy with harsher punishments for the perpetrator.
The season was kicking off which was sure to push the story towards the back burner, and getting booed on the road looked like the biggest long term punishment for Ray Rice. And who cares if you get booed on the road as long as your home fans, tone deaf, shower you with standing ovations upon your return. This story was just about over.
And that was just the way the NFL wanted it.
Because at the end of the day, the NFL doesn’t really care what you, I or anyone thinks as long as the money keeps rolling in. Any person entering into a relationship with “the league”, whether it be fan or player, knows at this point they are insignificant in the face of the mighty NFL. Its indifference towards pretty much everyone is off-putting, but not unexpected or criminal.
The reason why the Ray Rice scandal is such a disgusting ordeal is because it’s clear that the NFL doesn’t care about the actual victim, Janay Palmer.
Note: In the months following the incident, Palmer married Rice in what appeared to be a blatant attempt by Rice to manipulate either the justice system or Palmer herself. Either way, she goes by the name Janay Rice but will continue to be referred to as Janay Palmer within the confines of this article.
The National Coalition for Domestic Violence estimates that most domestic violence incidents go unreported, because the victim fears retaliation or that they won’t be taken seriously enough to solve the problem. The NFL had the chance to stand up for Janay Palmer and every other victim of domestic violence. They had the chance to be at the forefront of a social and cultural movement.
They occupy rarified air as one of the most visible and powerful institutions in the world, and they had the opportunity to tell the thousands of women and men (10-15% of victims of domestic violence are men) living in fear and tired of an indifferent system, “No more. We as a society are better than this and it will not stand. We support you.”
Instead of becoming the biggest advocate in the country against domestic violence, the NFL validated every fear and preconception the victim has. They want the fans thinking about Peyton Manning’s last gasp at a Super Bowl or the Seahawks’ chances to repeat. They wanted Janay Palmer to go away as quickly as possible.
Don’t let the league push Janay Palmer, and the millions she represents, out of the picture. Don’t let this become just another instance of armchair activism that goes away once the next injustice finds its way into the public eye.
Next month the NFL makes its half-assed attempt to pander to their female audience, promoting breast cancer awareness by hocking pink merchandise. Where only 8% of the proceeds actually go to cancer research, the rest goes to operational costs, the NFL (1.25%), the manufacturer (37.5%) or the retailer (50%). And in most cases, the manufacturer and retailer are the NFL and the individual team.
Rather than wear pink, wear purple. October also happens to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month and purple is its official color.
Familiarize yourself with Greg Hardy’s case, another high-profile NFL star convicted of a similarly gruesome crime to the one Rice committed. Hardy’s case will be the first instance when the NFL can begin to make amends for their bungling of Rice’s crime. Greg Hardy has no place in the NFL or decent society at all, and if the NFL cares about Janay Palmer, they can do something about the former.
In her first public comment since the release of the second tape, Janay Palmer has been defiant in her defense of Rice. All the more reason this woman needs help from the outside. Abuse is able to adopt the characteristics of Stockholm Syndrome, where the abused believes they deserve what is happening to them. Palmer describes that night in Atlantic City as “a moment,” but domestic violence is hardly ever limited to one moment.
Even if it is, one instance of brutal violence is one too many.
The NFL failed Janay Palmer by trying to shuffle her misery to the side in order to cover its own ass. It handed down a hollow suspension after the Ravens had terminated Rice’s contract. The easy explanation was “I just pictured my wife/mother/sister in that video and it was unacceptable.”
That’s the thing about empathy and justice though, you shouldn’t have to make it personal for it to resonate. I don’t need to see my mom or sister-in-law in Janay Palmer’s face to feel outraged watching that video.
The Ravens failed Janay Palmer in so many ways: a now infamous news conference in which she sat next to the man who assaulted her and took blame for causing the incident, a narrative the Ravens organization was all too quick to embrace.
The system failed Janay Palmer by giving Ray Rice a slap on the wrist. And now all those institutions are in damage control mode, trying to avoid bad PR. None of them really seem to care about the battered woman currently sharing a house with a professional athlete who has already shown disregard for her well-being.
When the NFL kicked off last Thursday, they ran a pregame highlight package featuring each team asking, “Why not us?” Unfortunately against the backdrop of a woman’s limp body hitting an elevator railing then being dragged out like a deer, the thought of who will be hoisting the same trophy Ray Rice was allowed to just two years ago seems pretty insignificant.
The calls to action in the wake of the scandal have been loud. Keith Olbermann called for Roger Goodell to resign and a boycott of every Ravens game this year. Is it valid to call for the ouster of the man who oversaw one of the most shameful events in recent pro sports history?
Sure, but Goodell isn’t going anywhere. Dictators tend not to resign.
It’s also valid to implore Ravens fans not to contribute a dime to an organization that steadfastly defended Rice for six months, even going as far as having the head coach call him, “a great guy.”
But it won’t happen. All that’s left to do is not let Janay Palmer and victims of domestic violence believe they deserve the wrath of another human. The NFL doesn’t really care, not nearly as much as they care about weathering this PR disaster. The Ravens don’t really care, with Rice out of sight they’re much more concerned about whether Justin Forsett and Bernard Pierce can replicate his on-field production.
The courts don’t really care anymore, and they won’t until Ray Rice inevitably hurts her again. But someone has to care about the quiet epidemic of violence that takes place behind closed doors. Someone has to care because most of the time there aren’t casino cameras to catch a brute red-handed. Someone has to care about Janay Palmer.
Why not us?
(Featured image: Flickr/Zennie Abraham)
Help be the voice the NFL won’t. Multiple charities are taking donations of 27 dollars (Rice’s number) to any number of domestic violence organizations:
The One Love Foundation, a national foundation in memory of Yeardley Love, a University of Virginia student who was killed by her boyfriend
Family Crisis Center of Baltimore
House of Ruth, Maryland
And if you know someone suffering from a domestic violence situation, check out these sites: