Regardless of where you fall in the level of outrage and disgust over surveillance video of now former NFL running back Ray Rice cold-cocking his soon-to-be wife at a now-bankrupt Atlantic City casino this past February, there is one cold, hard fact; before anyone was allowed to actually see the raw brutality of the act, no one truly gave a shit. Not Ray Rice, whose robotically misguided apology to fans and teammates seemed to miss a larger, more disturbing point. Not his fiancée, who would defend him to police with “sorry for my role in this” miasma and later to the public in a badly staged press conference. Not the Atlantic City police department, which saw fit to arrest Rice’s victim, then Ms. Janay Palmer, nor the Atlantic County Chief Prosecutor James McClain, who recommended counseling over jail time for Rice as a first-time offender. Certainly not the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, whose reign has been mostly defined by a “law and order” approach of no tolerance, big fines and long suspensions for “illegal hits” on the field and drug abuse off it, yet rendered Rice a laughable two-game suspension. (Patriots wide out Wes Welker got four games for sampling speed.)
The original tape the NFL saw—although there is now question as to whether they had seen this newly discovered detailed version—was that of a soused Rice dragging an unconscious woman off an elevator; motionless, face down, legs akimbo, shoes askew, as if he were throwing a rag doll across the floor, then helping her legs across the elevator threshold by blithely kicking at them. How an equally soused Palmer got that way could have been up for debate, Lord knows I have dragged a few unconscious drunks in my time. But remember, Rice, not thrown enough by this to lie his ass off, readily admitted to police and the league to having clocked her.
So, despite seeing the results of what Rice had openly admitted to—knocking out a woman with a close-fisted left cross—it would be a two-game suspension, which expanded to six games for future offenders when the sports world predictably went ballistic. Then TMZ got a hold of the “inside the elevator” version of the punch, the woman’s head careening off the metal railing and crumpling to the floor, and Rice picking her up like a deer carcass and dragging her seemingly lifeless frame face first before dropping her like a sandbag. Two games immediately escalated to Rice being gone; his team, the Baltimore Ravens, voiding his non-guaranteed contract and the league suspending him indefinitely.
Of course, no one has explained why seeing a man punch a woman is more serious than having him merely admit to it. Is this like people choosing to eat a hot dog, which they know is made of garbage entrails and mystery filling, based on having actually seen how it was made or if South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham would scream so loudly about invading every country under the sun if he had to be the one standing on the front line.
This corporate brand of revisionist history is especially ridiculous seeing how two prominent NFL players will compete this weekend, Carolina Panthers defensive end, Greg Hardy, who was found guilty by a district judge in July of assaulting and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend and waits appeal in November, and San Francisco 49ers defensive end, Ray McDonald, who was recently arrested for “fighting” with his 10-week pregnant fiancée a couple of weeks ago, allegedly leaving bruises on her arms and neck. There are no tapes of them, so they get to play, while Rice’s career at 27 years old is over.
So whatever half-cracked PR nobility the NFL rolls out now (hiring an independent investigator, who has ties to NFL owners and works for a firm that has former members employed by—get this—the Baltimore Ravens), it does nothing to alter our cold, hard fact; Roger Goodell and the National Football League, a $10 billion a year conglomerate of immense financial, political, marketing and cultural powers run by a man making $44 million a year, do not think battering women is as big a deal as say hitting a quarterback in the head or smoking a joint.
Getting back to Atlantic County, NJ; what’s with the counseling? They give counseling for breaking and entering? How about car theft? Dealing coke? How are these any less egregious than smashing a woman in the face?
This has to be answered.
Hey, I’m no wallflower, as most anyone who reads this space knows. I think if you want to run amok over most of society’s conventions, more power to you. I don’t even care if the newly married Mrs. Rice finds some kind of inner joy from being smacked around. To each her own, I say. Where I get confused is how we go off the rails for the dumbest shit in this country, like society hanging by a thread over rap music or gay rights or not putting God in a political platform or refugee children fleeing drug cartel violence, but beating on a woman seems to be okay.
For instance; I need this explained to me: When the National Broadcasting Company showed the offending tape in its entirety—two adults, one a professional athlete, the other a grown woman, spitting at each other, arms flailing and then a left cross that sent her back, she charges mouth agape as if a wild banshee, and then the calmly efficient left cross to the side of her skull sending her bouncing unconscious from wall to floor, the horrible Neanderthal dragging and flopping of her to the ground, as she lie there face down on the carpet—the network thought it prudent to blur out her underwear. This is what was too much for you to bear; a panty shot.
But, hey, could it be any worse than this: Word came down this week that the NCAA, lords of rule-crazy sanctions against college kids who get free bologna sandwiches from boosters, took two years off the already weak four-year ban on Penn State University from recruiting and bowl games, following that institution’s support and promotion of the rape of children by its top employees and president. Four years was already far below my rational suggestion to bulldoze the joint and turn the plot into a maximum security prison for pedophiles, but it appears that while the NFL is nonchalant about its employees choking, punching, fighting and threatening to kill women, some of them pregnant, then the NCAA is nonchalant on its members promoting the rape of children
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus” and “Y”.