Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly did we learn with the release of the video of Ray Rice hitting his fiancé in that Atlantic City elevator? We knew they were alone in the elevator. We knew that she was conscious when she stepped into the elevator. We knew that Ray Rice knocked her unconscious in the elevator. Nobody was suggesting that the woman fainted or slipped on a banana peel. Rice was after all charged with domestic abuse. Keep in mind that the original video did not show Janay Rice staggering out of the elevator clutching her face, it showed her completely motionless and unconscious on the floor.
Did people think that he merely pushed her away to ward off her violent attack? This is a person whose job it is to get violently tackled 25 times a game by 250+ pound men. Often 2-3 such men combine to tackle him, and intelligent people supposedly believed that he couldn’t withstand the onslaught from his fiancé for the 20 seconds it would have taken for the door to open? If Ray Rice’s fiancé was trying to beat him to death he could have held her off with one hand and drank a cup of hot coffee with the other without spilling a drop.
Before the second video, many sports commentators stated that Rice’s two game suspension was about right, though some publicly wondered if the penalty might have even been too harsh. Adam Schefter even posed the unfortunate question of whether the NFL was “lenient enough”. Now that the second video has been released the media is coming at the NFL and Roger Goodell with torches and pitchforks. It’s as if sports commentators had no idea that knocking a woman unconscious could look so distasteful until they saw that second video.
The reality is that members of the sports media, like most human beings, still have an instinct to stick with the herd. When the critical mass of public opinion began reacting with outrage to the second video, everyone sprinted off the front of the mob. The Ravens organization, which had the cluelessness to tweet about Janay Rice accepting her responsibility for the incident, promptly cut Rice and all the commentators who were once so quick to move on to the next story were all over the TV and radio voicing their outrage.
This is much the same as what happened with Donald Sterling. For years people had accused Sterling of discriminating against minorities and actually settled a huge lawsuit related to housing discrimination. Despite Sterling’s reputation, he carried on as an owner for decades and even had the league block a trade of Chris Paul to his team’s biggest rival, thus allowing Sterling to make his own trade for Paul. But when social media exploded over the leak of tape where he was caught telling his mistress he didn’t want her going to games with black people, everyone in the sports world was suddenly outraged and Sterling was forced from the league.
The phoniest people of all in this story is the top brass of the NFL, particularly Roger Goodell himself. In the span of just a few weeks he has adjusted his position on domestic abuse three times. First he felt a two game suspension for knocking your fiancé unconscious was sufficient. Then when many people voiced their anger that two games for domestic abuse was woefully inadequate given he had just suspended someone a year for smoking marijuana, he told us that he had reconsidered and that in the future players would get a 6 game suspension for domestic abuse but that they would not change Ray Rice’s original suspension. Then when everybody went crazy over the second video, he changed his mind again and said that Rice would be suspended indefinitely. Some might argue that this is uncharted territory for the NFL and they have now learned their lesson on the seriousness of domestic violence. That argument might hold some water if not for the fact that the most famous murder trial in the country’s history involved a star running back who abused his wife.