I love sports and I especially love watching football. I spend most of my spare time tweeting about, blogging about, and watching football. (Five years ago I started the blog CFLjoe because, what the heck). I often stand up for certain athletes or sports in general (see: Olympics) because I think they do quite a bit of good for society or, because I think athletes are generally doing their best under a LOT of pressure.
And so, after seeing the video of Ray Rice attacking his fiancée, brutally knocking her unconscious, and the cover up from the league/team, I'm really at a loss for words. Not only is the power dynamic sickening but the fact that the man received only a two game suspension for his actions is truly unforgivable from a professional sports league and player. Let's remember that in the past, players have received full season suspension for smoking amounts of pot.
The Ravens football organization also felt it was appropriate to have the athlete's now-wife apologize on Twitter for "her part in the incident."
And yeah, this tweet is still up. RT @Ravens: Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) September 8, 2014
To me, this is idiocy at its worst. Not only was this woman victimized by an athlete who spends his days working out to be in peak physical fitness but she is re-victimized by having to accept public blame for being knocked unconscious by a man she trusted. Janay Rice isn't the only woman to experience domestic abuse -- in fact, this is the reality for millions of women who are shamed in to believing that they've experienced violence because of something they did. This is a lie.
Beyond the violence itself, what frustrates me the most about this incident is the lying and deception that has taken place from both the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL. Did the NFL see the video of the incident, hope it didn't get out and only suspended Ray Rice for two games because he's a star player? Why does the tape of the incident need to be seen in the first place? Shouldn't the report and evidence of domestic abuse be enough to warrant more than two games? Why did the league at one point say that they had access to the video footage but now after public outrage, claim they never had it? Are the NFL and the Ravens that ignorant? The back and forth can be seen here.
Because what's lost in all this is that a woman was beaten unconscious and was ignored because we apparently love sports more than we have compassion for others. No player, no matter how famous or rich, should be excluded from full punishment, counseling, and reconciliation. No woman, no matter who her abuser is, should be shamed into silence, isolation, or fear.
What I really fear is that a victim of domestic abuse is being ignored and potentially smeared for the convenience of viewership, the NFL, and making money. And if so, that's disgusting.
Around 2 p.m. on Monday we saw that the Baltimore Ravens had finally released Ray Rice from the team. At around 2:45 we read that the NFL has indefinitely suspended him "based on new video evidence".
Roger Goodell has announced that based on new video evidence that became available today he has
indefinitely suspended Ray Rice.— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) September 8, 2014
Again, this NFL statement is implying that without video evidence, Rice wouldn't have been suspended. Roger Goodell, the man who makes all the decisions within the NFL, had full latitude to suspend Ray Rice indefinitely when he first saw the injuries to Rice's fiancée, and first heard the reports of Rice punching his fiancée and dragging her around by her hair while she was unconscious. It's as though we don't know how bad domestic abuse is until we see it face to face and are confronted with an elevator video. At minimum, he had full latitude to do some further research into what exactly happened between Rice and his fiancée. And yet, two games, because we love sports.
Perhaps the best summary of the sad nature of this whole debacle was from Fox Sports reporter Jimmy Traina who wrote: "Ray Rice is unemployed because of TMZ, not the NFL."
Ray Rice is unemployed because of TMZ, not the NFL.— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) September 8, 2014
Couldn't have put it better myself. When the NFL knew the original nature of the crime, it was virtually ignored. When the NFL saw the PR and financial backlash, they decided another course of action would be best. It's sad but true.
If you haven't seen the video, then respect Janay Rice and don't. Either way, if you're a sports fan or not, please join with me in demanding better from those who flood our TVs and ask us to love them. The people who make millions of dollars for our entertainment aren't immune to our criticism and should be held to the highest of standards. The sports world is an amazing place with amazing people but we can and must do better than this.
Earlier this year, Alberta CFL teams and the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters started a campaign called Leading Change. I am happy to see some partnerships like this get started but this can't be the end; it must be the start of something larger within the sporting community.
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