Ray Rice punishment: too little, too late

NFL must take issues of domestic abuse more seriously

For those of us who can only keep up with one Rice controversy at a time, here’s some quick background on the latest news about Ray Rice:

On Feb. 15 of this year, a video surfaced of the then-Ravens running back dragging his beaten, unconscious fiancée out of a hotel elevator. He was fined and suspended for two games, an incredibly lenient punishment that was immediately met with outrage from both fans and advocates for victims of domestic abuse who felt the league wasn’t taking the issue seriously enough.

Yesterday TMZ posted an apparently never-before-seen video of what actually happened in the elevator: Rice punching his then fiancée in the face, then standing there remorselessly while she lay unconscious until the elevator doors opened and he dragged her out. Hours after this video was posted, the Ravens issued an abrupt statement announcing that they completely terminated Rice’s contract and the NFL banned him indefinitely from the league.

Obviously, the NFL is trying to prove it has no tolerance for instances of domestic abuse. But isn’t this too little, too late? Sure, the video of Rice actually punching his fiancée in the face was just released yesterday, but the fact he had physically abused her is old news — seven months old, to be exact. The original video showed Rice dragging her out of an elevator, there’s not much left to the imagination. But apparently that wasn’t enough to hold Rice fully accountable. On top of that, the Ravens initially Tweeted, “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role she played the night of the incident.”

Now that we have a video of the actual moment it happened, all of a sudden everyone’s falling over themselves to give Rice a more serious punishment and insisting that the issue is not being taken seriously by the entire league.

This looks a lot like the infamous Mike Rice situation from last year. Rutgers took serious action and fired him only after videos came out that clearly showed him physically and verbally abusing players. Only seeing is believing anymore — we’ve come to be overly cautious about pointing fingers in a society that’s taught us if we make a mistake, we can be sued. In this day and age, when we can see everything, we seem to need concrete evidence to the point that even the most obvious extrapolations aren’t considered anymore.

So while the NFL has now taken appropriate action, it’s disappointing that they didn’t take this stance from the beginning. Roger Goodell himself admitted his original punishment was much too lenient, but trying to save face now will never cover up the fact that the issue wasn’t looked into seriously enough before.

How is it that TMZ, regardless of its method, managed to get this video before the NFL ever saw it? If the NFL really needed this much evidence to give Rice the appropriate punishment, how hard did they really try to find it despite the apparently thorough investigation immediately following the incident? Their actions might seem appropriate, but it means nothing if the mentality towards domestic abuse isn’t truly changed. In any case, let’s hope this is the last of Rutgers’ Rice controversies.

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