The NFL’s Undesired Domestic Violence Saga

September 30, 2014

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the Sahara desert for the last month, you’ve probably heard the names Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson associated with domestic violence.


Just to recap, over the month of September, four prominent NFL players have been arrested under domestic violence charges: Ray Rice (BAL RB), Greg Hardy (CAR DE), Ray McDonald (SF DE), and Jonathon Dwyer (ARI RB). Adrian Peterson (MIN RB), however, was indicted on child abuse charges which are almost identical to that of domestic violence charges.

This entire saga has cast a shadow on the game of football and its exciting season, shifting the spotlight to a subject that does not deserve to define an entire league.  Making almost the equivalent amount of noise as these alleged crimes has been the NFL’s handling of the situation.  As many have seen headlined in the papers, Commissioner Roger Goodell came out of public hiding to deliver a “pointless” press conference a little over two weeks ago.

Goodell acknowledged that he wrongly handled the issue as a whole and established that the NFL needs to change their approach.  However, he failed to provide the press with any idea of what those changes would be, leaving the situation ambiguous.

As the league stands right now, Rice, Hardy, Dwyer, and Peterson have all been suspended indefinitely from their respective teams.  McDonald agreeably remains an active member of his team until further investigation. When the Ray Rice story originally broke in July, Goodell had suspended him for 2 games, half of any drug related charges.  The public was outraged by this conclusion, but nothing changed until TMZ released the tape of Rice’s brawl with his now wife, Janay. After the release of the tape the saga of domestic violence cases seemed to begin.


The NFL’s handling of this entire domestic violence matter has been denigrated superfluously, but the public’s opinion has also been greatly misled. Goodell was obligated to issue a suspension to Rice, just to show that some disciplinary action was taken.  Yet he recognized that Rice and his wife had attended months of group therapy after the conflict in February of 2014, discussed it with each other at length, and even got married in March. Ray and Janay have been through enough individual turmoil in their relationship already, and this past month has inadvertently taken their relationship numerous steps back.  Two games did the trick from the league’s standpoint, and the two sorted out their differences, so why add on?

The league had no choice. Once they got on the public’s bad side, the press took over.  TMZ released the horrid footage of Rice physically assaulting his fiancé in an elevator, and if the NFL did not take further action as that surfaced, the response would be horrendous in a league that thrives off public support.  The league had no other option but to rid itself of Rice, regardless of the fact that Janay publicly addressed the situation, stating that the two settled their differences privately and everything is calm.

TMZ, a media powerhouse, shone the limelight on what some are considering to be football’s demise.  Not only football fans followed this story, but others also chimed in, only seeing the league for that unfortunate side rather than its thrilling game.  Once the video became viral and people began to recognize the situation in its entirety, the prior arrest of Greg Hardy received higher regard and further arrests of the same charge became highly publicized.

Rice was one of the top running backs in the league, owning high accolades to that moniker, so when he entered the wrong side of the law, people took note.  Alluding to earlier in the piece, Rice was the man “tipping the first domino of many.”  He brought back previous domestic violence cases to consideration, and publicized future ones.  TMZ did its job releasing the tape, now the NFL was obligated to issue what seems expulsion sentences to appease to the public’s concern while these allegations were simply that, allegations!

No man, in my opinion, deserves persecution under an unproven accusation.  Regardless of the public’s opinion, we are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty in this country, right?  Obviously that is just in theory, and disregarded under most cases, but the judicial system should at least attempt a throwback to its prime constitutional days.

I commend San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh for boldly holding his own against the media and continuing to instate Ray McDonald on the team, neglecting surrounding influences.  Ironically though, most disagree with his decision. After-all, he inadvertently gained respect by being the only person to stand up for his own opinion in this debate.

Each of these five players have yet to be convicted in a court of law, so do they deserve the same consequences as a proven felon?  In an ideal society they do not, but obviously that is not what we live in.  With the media controlling the public as its own puppet, the public will be swayed to believe what the media wants them to. Even in the case of Ray Rice, where the elevator camera tape has the odds completely stacked against him, it is only just an ordinary piece of evidence alongside a myriad of others that still have to prove his undeniable guilt in front of a jury.

If all these players are presumably guilty of the crimes that they are suspected to have committed, then of course I would not be in support of them, but until that point, what is the benefit of speculating?

The attention that this whole issue has brought to the NFL’s doorstep has been undesirable, but the accused suspects are not the reason, TMZ is.  Playing the blame game is one accessible to all, but in a league where players are handed checks worth thousands of times more than the average family’s annual income, these players must be upheld to high standards—including the obligation of following the law.

If a player undermines the expected behavior by the league—regardless of what it is—even if it is a first time offense, do they deserve to be banned from all professional football games for the rest of their lives?

Children view these players as role models, but if for some reason they do set a bad example, like Ray Rice, how can they resolve the issue when the overseeing body [NFL] restricts them from doing anything?  Sometimes, there are no second chances, however Rice tried to the best of his ability to repair his relationship and his image. He rebuilt the relationship with his fiancé, happily married her, and moved on from that episode together.  In normal domestic violence cases, if the victim does not press charges, then the situation ends at that.  Janay Rice did not press charges, so it should stop there, with necessary suspension from the league. But expulsion? Really?

Rice is not even a convicted felon yet and he is still not allowed to step onto a football field.  I am in no way defending Rice or the other accused players, but public opinion should not be molded by a multi-billion dollar organization.  The league does not deserve to have its new season lost in the dismay of this tragic month, but the NFL should still have the guts to stand independently of the press.

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