-Andy O’Brien, Assistant Editor
On February 15, 2014, Ray Rice entered elevator with Janay Palmer, his fiancée. Rice emerged from the elevator dragging Palmer’s unconscious body, an image seen by millions thanks to a video found by TMZ.
A police report regarding the incident stated that Rice “struck her with his hand, rendering her unconscious.”
Rice was an icon for the Baltimore Ravens. He helped them reach the playoffs in each of his first five seasons with the team, eventually helping them win the super in 2012.
The National Football League, who at the time had Rice under a contract worth nearly $40 million, knew what happened in that elevator.
On March 27, Rice was indicted of third-degree aggravated assault. A proposed sentence included a three to five year jail sentence. The next day, Rice married Palmer.
Rice’s criminal charges were dropped after negotiations with the court.
By the time NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with Rice, it was July. Goodell suspended Rice for two games.
Goodell received widespread criticism for the length of the suspension. Rightfully so. Rice should never play another down in the NFL, and the league should have recognized that in February.
But Goodell is not to blame.
The NFL is truly governed by the owners. These wealthy and powerful people are typically interested in keeping the star players on the field to win games and keep fans on their bleachers and couches on Sundays. The owners don’t care about the conduct of the players, so long as it doesn’t affect the wallets of the fans.
After years of being paid millions of dollars to hit other humans, who can blame NFL players for learning that violence IS the answer?
Ray Lewis received an emotional sendoff when he retired after winning the 2012 super bowl. After the super bowl in 2000, he allegedly took part in a fight that ended in two stabbing deaths. One victim’s blood was found in Lewis’ limousine; Lewis’ suit that he wore that night has never been found. Lewis was indicted on murder and aggravated-assault charges. Negotiations led to Lewis receiving one year of probation. Less than a year after the incident, Rice was named the MVP of super bowl XXXV.
Michael Vick was infamously involved in an interstate dog fighting ring that had existed for five years before it was shut down. He pleaded guilty to felony charges and served 21 months in prison. In 2010, he was named the NFL comeback player of the year.
Ben Roethlisberger has been accused of sexual assault in 2008 and 2010, in two different states. He evaded criminal punishment.
There are countless other, if less notable, examples. Somehow these men maintained their star status and made millions more dollars from playing football. We tune in week in and week out and see criminals smash into each other.
We endorse their behavior by signing their paychecks.
The NFL doesn’t care what these men do off the field. What’s harder to admit is, neither do we.