Domestic violence. Two words that I’ve had to think about way, way too much lately; specifically with regards to Greg Hardy, who I’m also sick of thinking about. But for this article I’m going to bring up another name that you might have forgotten about in the NFL’s domestic violence mini-epidemic.
Remember him? The guy who punched his wife unconscious before getting on an elevator in Atlantic City in February 2014. The NFL’s original domestic violence case.
Well, Ray Rice is back in the news with his announcement today that he hopes to someday work for the NFL to raise awareness of domestic violence.
In past articles, I’ve said that I typically want to give athletes the benefit of the doubt with regards to most things. And that being said, I want to believe that Ray Rice has sincere desires to make a positive impact on the NFL in light of his awful mistake 2 February’s ago.
In case you need a refresher on Rice’s story, here you go, cliff notes style.
In February of 2014, Rice and his fiancé Janay Palmer were arrested, detained, and released from jail on charges of a “minor domestic dispute.” TMZ released a video of Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer from an Atlantic City elevator a few days later, and in July the NFL suspended Rice for 2 games. You know, because they need to at least pretend to care.
Then, on September 8th, TMZ released the video of Rice punching Palmer out cold before dragging her lifeless body into the elevator and later dragging her out. The Ravens immediately released Rice hours after the video was released. The NFL then took until the next day to suspend Rice “indefinitely.”
Then came the controversy. The NFL claimed they had never seen the video of Rice punching Palmer until TMZ released it. “You’re telling me that the NFL, one of the most powerful organization on the planet, could not access a video of one of its high profile athletes committing a horrific crime before freaking TMZ could?! Are you kidding me?” I thought.
It was an absolute debacle, both for Rice and the NFL. Rice hasn’t played a down since being released, as he shouldn’t because there is no place in this league for a man who domestically abuses a woman.
But, through all of this, Palmer stood by Rice’s side and supported him. Publicly appearing at press conferences with him, having his back, doing interviews in support of him, even finishing the engagement and getting married.
And though I’m usually not much for athlete apologies, I really did feel for Rice because his remorse was clear and I truly believe he just made a terrible mistake that he’ll regret for the rest of his life.
But Palmer’s remorse also tells me she was nearly equally involved in the incident and feels responsibility for it as well, which doesn’t get talked about in the media because female-on-male domestic violence cases are mostly a joke to the general public. But that’s a different topic for a different day.
And with Rice’s announcement that he is hoping to join the NFL in a role of raising domestic violence awareness is big; big for Rice, and big for the league’s image in trying to come out of a sort of Dark Age in player crime.
But with Rice’s announcement came a sad realization on my part that isn’t remotely surprising, but maddening and unfair.
Right now, the words ‘domestic violence’ seem to be synonymous with Greg Hardy’s name; and that was the first thing that came up in my mind with Rice’s announcement.
I’ve written on the league’s despicable enabling of Hardy solely because he’s a good player, and how unacceptable it is. But at the same time, the league has taken a strong public stand with regards to Rice’s case, suspending him for a really long time in conjunction with all the owners seemingly banding together to not employ him.
So it feels like they’ve done right with the Rice case. But they haven’t. Not even close. Everyone is lacking one key ingredient here.
There is only one reason why Greg Hardy still has a job in the NFL and Ray Rice doesn’t, and probably won’t. It’s because pass rushers are in higher demand and harder to find than running backs these days.
Think about it. Every team in today’s NFL needs a pass rush, it’s imperative to defensive success, and pass rushers are more overvalued than ever. But while every team also needs a running game, running backs have become much, much easier to find; as teams are now finding starting backs in late rounds of the draft and the Patriots just sign a new guy off the street and he runs for 200 yards the same week. So, in today’s NFL, the pass rusher is just worth astronomically more than the running back.
Greg Hardy is a very talented pass rusher, and is being paid and treated as such by the Cowboys, who continue to put up and enable all of his remorseless bullshit that hurts my mind every time he does something new and stupid.
Ray Rice is a talented running back, but running backs aren’t worth a lot anymore, so no team is willing to take the flak that will come with signing Rice when they can just go get another guy that can’t do the job as well as Rice, but won’t have all the baggage and won’t make their team image look so bad.
That, right there, is what’s wrong with the league and why I find myself trying not to like or support the NFL at any opportunity I can get. If a player is talented and can play a vital role, he’ll be coddled and enabled, no matter what kind of shit he puts up.
But if a player, like Rice, isn’t as useful to teams, they won’t even give him a remote glance because the negative pushback that would come from the signing just isn’t worth it to NFL teams’ precious reputations.
Again, let’s look specifically at the cases of Rice and Hardy.
As soon as the video of Rice punching Palmer was made public, Rice was released, suspended, ridiculed, and all good thoughts of him were exiled by the thought police. When the pictures of the injuries sustained by Hardy’s ex-girlfriend after his savage beating of her, the only thing that happened was a bunch of angry bloggers, feminists, and just people in general calling for Hardy’s job.
Did anything remotely close to what happened to Rice happen to Hardy? Absolutely not; in fact, I didn’t hear a peep from the Dallas Cowboys or the NFL after the pictures were released. They just sort of pretended that it wasn’t happening and that all was right with the world.
It’s completely unacceptable that guys like Hardy are enabled, while guys like Rice are spurned and ignored. Have some goddamn consistency and humanity. Have the balls to do what’s right and evaluate both these situations in the same light.
No amount of talent should ever dictate whether or not a player gets punished for breaking the freaking law and committing one of the worst crimes known to man short of murder. That’s just not how this world works.
But it’s how the NFL works. If you’ve got talent, you’ve got a spot in the league, no matter what you do. But if you’re expendable and your position isn’t valued as much as it should be, you better be an absolutely perfect human being, or one slip up and your job is gone.
Should this change? Of course; but will it? Not a chance. Money is king in the NFL, always has been and always will be. That will never change, and Greg Hardy makes the league a lot of money off his talent and merchandise credibility.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is a problem; a serious freaking problem. A problem that would take years to change because it’s deeply rooted in the culture of not just the NFL, but all professional sports.
I’m tired of writing about it, but I know this isn’t the last article I’ll be writing on this subject, and that makes me sad. But still I hold out hope that things can change, and these words will be my last on this despicable subject.
But until next time, I’ll let these be my last words.
God didn’t put men and women on this planet to be enemies, so stop treating them as such. Love each other, and be willing to forgive after an argument or dispute instead of looking to harm to get your point across. Violence is never the answer, in any case.
Thanks for reading…