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Ray Rice, Roger Goodell – Who Is Public Enemy #1?

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For the past few weeks there have been many opinions on Ray Rice and his suspension. I have held off on mine for a couple of reasons – each relating to having all the information before weighing in. (It may be hard to believe for those of you who do not know me yet, but there have been times where I may have popped off in the heat of the moment. ) The information I was looking for was that of the actual suspension, reasoning behind, and response to all of it. It was not until Friday that Roger Goodell gave any reasoning behind the seemingly lenient punishment, which was not much at all.

Having covered Ray Rice, I was honestly shocked when the story broke that he was involved in a domestic violence incident. I always stress that we will never know the full story or person – good or bad. Often times, the fans in us are guilty of putting athletes on a pedestal for their athletic talent, and in turn, see them as we want to see them, not who they are. While I have said many times, it is not the athlete that let you down, it is the image that you created of them that disappointed you. Athletes, like each and every one of us, are human, and as much as we want to classify every person as all good or all bad, that is not reality. I say all this to explain to myself as much as anyone else because I had a hard time wrapping my head around Ray Rice – abuser.

The person I covered was very much the same as you have already heard about. He was extremely respectful to me and the job I was there to do. One story I did on Rice was on how he was passionate about working with kids and conscientious of them watching his actions. There is no doubt in my mind that at his core, he is the guy raised by a single mom, whose main concern is repairing his relationship with his wife, and explaining this situation to his daughter one day. That does not exempt him from punishment.

Ray Rice said in his press conference Thursday that he would not address what happened in the elevator. The problem we have is that we do not have all the information to know exactly what to criticize about the NFL’s two-game suspension. Rice says it does not matter what happened because he was wrong – violence against a woman is always wrong. That would be sufficient if Roger Goodell’s punishment echoed that sentiment. As it stands, we are left to wonder if it is the NFL does not care about domestic violence, or they feel Janay Palmer-Rice got what she had coming to her.

These may sound like harsh options, but look at it from this prospective. If Rice hit his then fiancé, with what Goodell categorized as no reason, a two-game suspension says that knocking out a woman is really not that big of a deal. Goodell says he has done more than enough considering he was not charged in the legal system. Don’t pat yourself on the back for being the morality police, Roger. Rice effectively plead out of charges by entering Atlantic County’s pre-trial intervention program. If he completes the program as prescribed by law, the charges will then be dismissed. The program takes about one year to complete. The claim that the law did not pursue charges or punishment is at best, misleading.

Now that we have established that the legal system did take issue with the instance, let is move on to the next aspect of the commissioner’s defense. The NFL has not needed the legal system when deciding punishments, see Ben Roethlisberger. The Steeler quarterback was not prosecuted after being accused of sexual assault by a 20-year-old college student, but received a six-game suspension. It appears the NFL was embarrassed by drunken bathroom sex with a stranger that may or may not have been consensual, which could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but they will let you slide if you know her.

If there is something that occurred on that elevator that Rice does not want released because he feels the focus would be put on her actions, that is fine. That is also the right thing for him to do as a husband not to have the scene played out. There does not need to be a debate on whether his actions were justified. They were not, and his wife does not need to be drug through the mud further. What Goodell is saying, is, he maybe should not have done it, but she had it coming.

These scenarios are not far outside of the realm of everyday mentality and are another aspect of my information gathering. What both instances show is that woman are inferior, and we will appease their tiny little brains with a tiny little punishment because it is just not that big of a deal. That is not at all shocking to me. What is shocking to me is the outrage by men who on a daily basis treat woman as second class citizens. I am not at all saying that every man thinks this way, but many do. As someone who has been told that “nobody wants their sports from a girl” and “you’re too old to be eye candy,” it is infuriating to see some of these same men using this story to act appalled at this horrific treatment of women.

Some of you at this moment have already tuned out because you see these things as separate issues, but it all comes done to the same basic thought process. It just manifests differently. It may be that a woman does not report abuse because her integrity will be called into question. Along the same lines, most women do not report or acknowledge work place issues because of how they will be perceived or affected in the future. Another example are the honking horns and the rude comments yelled at women walking down the street. These actions are part of a mentality that allows people to treat women as objects.

Stephen A. Smith was suspended for his comments about women provoking assault, but unfortunately, he said what many were thinking. How often is the first question, “what was she doing…?”

Fortunately, most environments are not physically threatening, but many women find themselves in a constant struggle to have their opinions heard or to be treated with respect. Every time a woman is minimized in any way, in any environment, it affects your wives, sisters, and daughters by perpetuating, and sometimes justifying, treating women as inferior.

Side note – there is a special place in hell for anyone making false accusations. Not only do they destroy the lives of those they falsely accuse, but they make it that much harder for those who are victims.

There are many good men that not a single word of this applies to, so this is in no way male bashing or directed at anyone with whom I work. I just find it hypocritical when men who treat women poorly on a daily basis, some without even realizing, jump on a soap box to speak out against injustices against the fairer sex. Violence against women is a societal problem. For the problem to get better, the society has to change how women are viewed at the most basic level.

Janay Palmer-Rice was the only female in the discussion with her abuser and his boss, and that is not much different from the conversation now. Most of the voices we are hearing sound off are those of men, but now I have added at least one female. Then again, nobody asked me, so what do I know?

Follow Leslie on Twitter @LK_Comm

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