Friday, July 25, 2014

Ray Rice Punishment Misses the Mark

I could sit here and list off all the NFL suspensions over the years that help make this punishment look completely non-sensical.

After all, Terrelle Pryor got five games for getting some free tattoos. While in college.

You don't need to know anything more than that.

I could just post Keith Olbermann's epic takedown of the NFL from Thursday night. But I only need to mention a few words. The last ones.

While noting that NFL Network's Chris Rose -- a rock-solid broadcaster, to be fair -- had the audacity to talk about Rice's suspension while coining the term "the iron fist of the NFL," Olbermann had this to say:

"Right now, the iron fist of the NFL has just been used ... against Ray Rice's wife ... and against every woman in America."

Many people love NFL football. Hell, I watch every weekend. There are countless web sites, blogs, Twitter feeds, YouTube videos, and other media dedicated to covering the NFL and living the NFL. The league has made a lot of people -- and not just those directly participating as owners, players, coaches, administrators, broadcasters, or whatever else -- a ton of money.

The NFL's success is largely related to its marketing. They're always trying to grow the league, instead of being content with what they already have. In this world, you're either growing or dying. There is no third direction.

(That's from "Tommy Boy," and it's still completely valid some 20 years later.)

That marketing has stretched to females. The NFL has smartly recognized that women around the world have become huge football fans. They might not be fans for any reason besides the fact their significant other is a huge fan, and they've turned football Sundays into a huge part of their relationship, but they're fans.

(Don't misread that. There's a slew of females out there who are football fans without any coercion from the opposite sex. No matter how they've become fans, they matter to the NFL, as they should.)

That means you can coax them into spending their money on the league, and many of them do just that.

Unfortunately, the NFL doesn't treat all women well.

Look what they just did to Janay Palmer-Rice.

The Ray Rice suspension should bother you as a human being. It isn't a tacit endorsement of the behavior caught in that video, where Ray Rice callously drags his unconscious (then) fiancee out of an Atlantic City elevator. He's not dragging her out of the elevator because he's concerned and wants to get her medical attention. He's not dragging her out of the elevator in a panic because he thinks something is wrong. Instead, his actions appear calm and, yes, callous.

Janay Palmer didn't pass out. Ray Rice knocked her out. And he got a two-game suspension for it.

And then Ravens coach John Harbaugh had the utter nerve Thursday to talk about how kids can learn from Rice's actions and the subsequent punishment.
“It’s not a big deal, it’s just part of the process. There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray. He’s a heck of a guy. He’s done everything right since. He makes a mistake, alright? He’s going to have to pay a consequence. I think that’s good for kids to understand it works that way. That’s how it works, that’s how it should be.”
Ray Rice might be the nicest guy on Earth. But that should not -- hell, can not -- matter when levying a punishment for something as severe as this.

And I don't want my 12-year-old son learning from any part of what has happened here. This is where the NFL's past punishments become more than just a valid argument. They become downright scary.

I'm not pro-marijuana, but I'd much rather my son smoked marijuana during the NFL offseason than knocked another human being -- worse yet, his significant other -- out cold before dragging that person's lifeless body out of an elevator with no regard for safety or well-being. And the NFL has just sent the message that it would rather you did the opposite.

Justin Blackmon -- who unquestionably needs help before he could ever even consider a comeback -- might never play football again. Ray Rice will be back on the field in Week 3.

It's the wrong message, and it's one I'd like to think the NFL is smart enough to get right. It's failed in this case.

It failed not just women around the world, but it failed its players, even Ray Rice.

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