#RayRice highlights failure of justice system in NFL

By Ashika Raval – araval@unca.edu – Sports Editor | Sept. 10, 2014 |

Kicking off its season last Thursday, the NFL is no longer bringing in good vibes and positive fans, but instead, heavy scrutiny and disappointed Americans.

In February, video footage was released by TMZ Sports to both the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens of their running back Ray Rice dragging his then fiancé Janay Palmer, who appeared unconscious, out of a hotel elevator. TMZ Sports also released audio of the hotel staff asking if she was drunk, and uncertainty of what was wrong with Palmer.

After a statement from Rice and meetings with the NFL, it became clear to the public that the situation involved foul play. The NFL then decided it was appropriate to suspend Rice for two games the upcoming season. The Ravens all stood behind Rice, releasing statements about how he is a good Raven, and that people make mistakes.

Months later, new footage surfaced that showed Rice punching and knocking Palmer unconscious.

Finally the Ravens decided to speak out. John Harbaugh, Raven’s coach; Steve Bisciotti, team owner; Dick Cass, team president and Ozzie Newsome, general manager, all stood behind Rice after the release of initial footage of Palmer being dragged out of the elevator.

Harbaugh claims Rice’s explanation misled his conclusion of what happened and says once he saw the second video, him and the other Ravens teammates unanimously decided they had no choice but to release him from the team.

So where does the NFL stand throughout all of this? Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner made the call after viewing the first video footage that Rice only deserved a meager two game suspension, but after heavy criticism of the mild severity of a suspension after the second video footage released, the NFL suspended Rice from the league indefinitely.

There are so many things wrong with the way this is being handled and so many questions that should be thrown at NFL. How are players who are caught in drug violations given longer suspensions than the initial two game suspension given to Rice?

Before TMZ Sports leaked the second video, the NFL decided to suspend Rice for two games, why did they feel the need to suspend him in the first place? Obviously because there was clear evidence of foul play and domestic violence, this shows the NFL’s priorities and what they consider to be a bigger issue.

domestic violence graphicWhat if the public never saw the second video? Would the NFL have even bothered changing their decision to an indefinite suspension?

The bigger question to be asked here is this, what if this didn’t involve Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens running back? What if he wasn’t the second leading rusher in franchise history, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, the team’s career leader in total yards from scrimmage and the only player in Ravens history to rush for 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons?

The answer to this question is honestly probably not much would be done and not many would have cared. The sad truth is that domestic violence like this happens every day and most of the time it happens behind closed doors, in rooms that don’t have cameras.

The footage that played all over the internet and television of Rice punching his fiancé is just one graphic illustration of the realities that happen every day worldwide.

The NFL is one of America’s most beloved pastimes and involves some of the highest-paid individuals in the country, so when controversy arises amongst its players attention is given.

Unfortunately, the NFL is unable to rightly hold this power and rather than sending out positive messages out to their audience, they took advantage of the  power they hold.

The NFL has such a big influence and stronghold on Americans that they were able to keep their audience and support strong Monday evening, regardless of the footage that came out Monday morning.

The initial reaction of the NFL and the Ravens and most of all the criminal justice system represents our country’s failure to recognize the severity of domestic violence.

It represents our failure as a country and our deep vulnerability that causes our inability to stand up when we see flaw in the system.

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