Recently, a video emerged of Ray Rice, a Baltimore Ravens’ running back, dragging his unconscious then-fiancée out of an elevator after allegedly punching her in the face several times. He was charged with third-degree aggravated assault; however, the prosecutors later dropped the charge after a plea deal was reached. The NFL’s response? A pathetic two game suspension. The league has harsher punishments for “offenses” such as eating unapproved foods or taking fertility drugs without prior approval.
The NFL has a responsibility that goes beyond ticket sales and royalties. Our society, for better or worse, idolizes its athletes. In 2013, over 108 million Americans watched Rice help the Ravens win the Super Bowl, and thousands of young Americans wore Rice’s jersey with pride. After this decision, would a high school athlete think twice before pushing around his girlfriend? Would the abused girlfriend even bother to come forward? Unfortunately, the NFL seems more concerned with protecting its image than sending a strong message that violence against women will not be tolerated.
Domestic violence was once seen as a “family issue,” not spoken of outside of the home. As a society, we’ve made some progress, but as this incident shows, we still have a long way to go. Those who commit violence against women – even star football players – cannot get away with it. With the NFL’s decision, yet another one just did. NFL greed and stardom scores points over justice.
A former prosecutor and criminal court judge, Congressman Ted Poe is the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus.