Culture of Hoops

BMF Discussion: Domestic Abuse, Roger Goodell, and an Infamous White Suit

Image courtesy of Zennie Abraham/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Zennie Abraham/Flickr.

A videotaped domestic altercation dating back to February between Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his-then fiancée Janay Palmer inside an elevator ended with Ray dragging and dropping Janay’s unconscious body from the scene. As a result, Ray was given a lenient 2-game suspension by the NFL, and no jail time by the courts.

A second videotape was released on Monday showing the actual punches thrown by Ray Rice which led to the Ravens cutting Ray from the roster, and indefinite suspension from the league. The NFL claimed to never have possession of the second videotape, but reports have proven this claim false. Now, the NFL has turned into Scapegoat City as the public seeks answers for who knew what and when do they find out.

BMF writers Aaron Lanton and TJ Macias discuss the fallout from the NFL’s blunders, their stance on domestic violence, and commissioner Roger Goodell’s future.

Aaron Lanton: Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs received two domestic abuse accusations from the same woman, his wife, Candice Williams. The excerpt from this story was posted by Pro Football Talk on December 15, 2012.

According to USA Today, the wedding came three days after Suggs’ now-wife, Candace Williams, removed a protective order that she got against Suggs on November 20. When she requested that order, Williams claimed that Suggs punched her in the neck and dragged her alongside a car he was driving while their two children sat inside. That was at least the second time that Williams claimed Suggs had been violent to her in the presence of their children; in 2009 Williams claimed that Suggs threw a soap dispenser at her head, hit her in the chest with his hand, and held a bottle of bleach over her and their then-1-year-old son.

Candace Williams was also the plaintiff in a $70 million lawsuit filed against Suggs in December 2009 citing Suggs’ inability to “effectively communicate” with their young children, and due to his “irrational and violent tendencies.” Williams voluntarily dropped the $70 million lawsuit. What does any of that mean?

Domestic abuse cases can be very complicated, particularly with professional athletes. Obviously, Ray Rice’s case is as complicated as a pancake is crooked, but some cases can be more complicated than they first appear.

Is that why the public didn’t react with this much fervor when the initial video of Ray Rice and Janay Rice was released in February?

Taylor Macias: As the plot thickens, you see notable key players, like commissioner Roger Goodell, step back and hold up their hands in defense, all finger pointing and attempting to throw each other under the bus. Fact of the matter is, what occurred in that elevator was a heinous crime, one that should have resulted in an jail time and not a sports controversy discussed around the goddamn water cooler. Where is the domestic violence debate? Further more, where is the domestic violence action?

Janay Palmer (now Rice) came forward after entire video was released with a statement via Instagram that received a great deal of backlash:

“No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted [opinions] from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret everyday is a horrible thing. To take something away form the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain rating is a horrific [thing]. THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all the happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels.”

It needs to be understood that women in similar situations like Palmer don’t suffer from “stupidity,” as most of the public assumes, when they go back to their significant other after a vicious act of violence occurs. It’s an addiction, an extreme one that that needs to be brought to light since most people aren’t familiar with it. Why is the NFL so reluctant to address this subject matter, especially since half their fan base is female?

Aaron: Talk about trading one hard question for another…

Ummm…. I guess it depends on what you mean by addressing. The responsibility of journalism is fair reporting. The responsibility of the law is due process and appropriate punishment. Roger Goodell, the NFL’s judge, jury, and executioner in matters of player personal conduct as defined in the CBA (collective bargaining agreement), has no responsibility other than assuaging the outrage of fans.

On August 28, Goodell introduced tougher policies for domestic abuse and sexual assault: The first offense results in a six-game suspension without pay. The second offense is an automatic one-year suspension. Again, we have the problem of asking a man who has lied to the public over several matters (Spygate, Bountygate, concussion issues, etc.) presiding as the sole decision maker.

In Goodell’s eyes, the matter was addressed after the two game suspension.

TJ: True, but it’s also the responsibility of the league to be honest with the journalists, which they didn’t do this time around. So the word “fair” shouldn’t be used in this scenario, I think. They took the media for a slew of microscopic-witted anal swabs when they told them that the left hand had no idea what the right hand was doing.

Speaking of tougher policies, as a human being with a vagina, I’m allowed to play devil’s advocate here and note that there are certain players in the league who have either been suspected, or even convicted, of actually killing another person and have only received a slap on the wrist. Most recently, Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter after he killed teammate and close friend Jerry Brown in an automobile accent (in which Brent was the driver) on December 8th, 2012. He was released on bail months after the incident, only to be sent back to jail after he tested positive for marijuana. One year after the death of Brown, he was found guilty of intoxication manslaughter on January 22th, 2014 and was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years probation.

He was cleared to play by the NFL and is allowed to return to the Cowboys this season after a 10-game suspension handed to him by Goodell.

Let me get this straight – Brent literally killed his best friend and he’s allowed to return to football? I’m not attempting to put a price on a human life, or lessen the absolute horror of domestic violence, but Rice was just suspended indefinitely for knocking out a person. Doesn’t this just prove that the policies of the league are completely and utterly askew?

Aaron: Askew is different from Goodell’s powers in the NFL which can be summed up as, “I’ll do what I want, when I want.” He alone decides what is important at his whim. The players poorly bargained this particular part of the CBA which let’s Goodell do as he wishes with impunity.

In the likely outcome that Goodell remains as commissioner, will you find it harder to watch professional football?

TJ: Ah, his whim, or the whim of the owners he dances for? As everyone who works for ESPN is saying, “It’s a slippery slope,” which is code for, “Well, I don’t know how to respond to this because I have a dick so I’m just going to shrug.”

I know I’m going to get hell for this, but no, this will not diminish my love for the game. I will watch on Sunday, I will watch on Monday, I will watch on Thursday, and I will watch each and every playoff game. I was raised to watch football and it’s like a religion to me. This is what the NFL banks on – fans, like myself, who throw harsh words and debate about what goes on behind closed doors, but who are so enthralled with the sport, that they’ll continue watching no matter what. They say that this could potentially turn the league upside down because of the lies that are being tossed about, with a large portion of the fan base (mainly women) turning their back on the game, do you think that’s true?

Aaron: The potential is there but it’s unlikely. Truthfully, there should be always be a separation for fans between the athlete and the person off the field/court.

I don’t know that anyone, man or woman, should feel pressure to boycott the NFL, ignore their fantasy teams, and forsake all memories of the sport they love. Football doesn’t commit crimes. A minuscule percentage of players do. No matter how we slice it, most NFL players are law-abiding citizens.
Unfortunately, the media has given a poor impression of many football players. They are considered unarmed but dangerous, prone to violent tendencies, and an inability to empathize with regular human beings.
If someone chose to watch games after Goodell’s idiocy, I’m fine with it. I’ll be among the many.
Now here’s the hardest question: Is it necessary to boycott the NFL to enact a genuine cultural change, or are there more gradual measures that would benefit everyone?

TJ: The NFL is a billion dollar industry which has a deleterious amount of influence on the folks who tune in, so if they take a stand against domestic abuse, a great deal of people will start to pay more attention and follow suit. Boycotting the NFL will do absolutely nothing since it’s like aiming a water gun at a burning 22-story building, especially when it comes to domestic abuse.

This incident is just a tiny ink blot on much larger picture, but I feel if the league actually addresses the issue, and knocks off this stale pointing fingers bull, it can actually turn into a gradual step in the right direction, and the starting piece needed to make the dominoes fall into place so that people can view this issue as the horror it truly is.

Aaron: Before the second Ray Rice tape, didn’t it feel like we were reaching that moment? Rice was suspended, new policies were out, and the NFL regular season started.

TJ: Only somewhat. It felt like they were slapped on the hand when it came to women, and they did what they had to do because the world was watching. It felt forced. Now, since the new policies were put into place, doesn’t that mean Rice falls within the lines of that specific new policy and should be suspended for six games instead of the original two games Goodell dosed out to him? Did suspending him indefinitely feel like it was just because the league had their back against a wall when the newest footage “suddenly surfaced”? Otherwise, the harshest punishment should have been upgrading the two days to six, like their new rule states.

Aaron: You’d have to ask Mr.Goodell to clarify who claimed that seeing the punches made him more disgusted than hearing the story second hand. Which reminds me, if a tree falls on the ground and no one is around, does it make a sound?

TJ: In all honesty, I find it hard to believe that Goodell didn’t see the footage of the tree falling and heard the sound, yet chose to turn a blind eye to it. The sound was made, and the sound is deafening.

Aaron: You don’t have to include belief because we factual know now that someone from the executive NFL office saw the tape. Take it to the bank. I don’t think he believed only two games was turning a blind eye. Goodell believed it was appropriate.

What, if anything, should we have learned from this situation, and do you think any good came this set of unfortunate events?

TJ: Unfortunately, I don’t think much good has sprung from this, especially since the real issue was covered with a rather thick amount of dumb f**k. Notice that people aren’t talking about domestic abuse anymore, they’re talking about lies and cover-ups. Until someone actually removes their danglers out of the Gladware they were placed in and reattaches them in order to take action against domestic abuse, it’s all just a bunch of yelling and glazed-over eyes idiocy.

Aaron: The conversation shifting to, and solely focusing on, the lies is weird but you know America hates liars about as much as racism and people who eat pizza with a fork. This could permanently change the trust fans have with the NFL, but everyone will keep patronizing the games, for now.

TJ: I don’t think the NFL doesn’t care if fans bad mouth the league office as long as they continue tuning into the games. I do agree the trust factor has been diminishing with each scandal little by little. But, like most cases that befall the NFL, this too will build a dust-bunny home under the league carpet and become close neighbors with Ray Lewis’ infamous white suit.

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