The NFL the other day announced a 2 game suspension for Ray Rice. Many of you may know that Ray Rice has agreed to “anger management’ treatment and “sensitivity treatment” as part of a plea deal in his case when he punched his then fiancé, now his wife, and dragged her out of an elevator in Las Vegas while she was unconscious. The part of him dragging her out of the elevator was caught on video and shown to the world.
Hardy, another NFL player in Charlotte, was found guilty by a judge for hitting and throwing his former fiancé and then covering up the crime. The judge ruled that there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed these crimes. Yet, he did not hand out any jail time. Just probation. Hardy is appealing. That will result in a “jury” trial, but not before the NFL season is over. The Charlotte team said they would “defer” punishment to the NFL.
After the NFL announced its punishment of Rice, there was a huge outcry about it being too lenient. Yesterday, the league said the punishment shows “the league will not tolerate this kind of behavior”. During one of the arguments about the punishment, Steven A. Smith at ESPN, although acknowledging that domestic abuse cannot be tolerated, went on to say that something needs to be done to determine “provocation” in such cases. That is right, he believes that domestic cases are “provoked” by the victim.
Let me put it this way, Mr. Smith, approximately 1 in 3 women in this country has been or will be a victim of domestic abuse. Do you really think that a full one-third of women are provoking their domestic partner to abuse them? That is an absurd stand! In my career, I dealt with many women who were abused by their spouses. Yes, I even dealt with some men who were also abused. If Mr. Smith wants to know what provokes these attacks it is simple.
The wife burns his supper. She has a different view on something. She didn’t dress exactly the way she was expected to. She wouldn’t have sex with him because he was drunk. She happened to be home when the drunken husband came in and took out his rage on her. Often times, it is simply that she is handy. The vast majority of domestic abuse victims usually fall into one of these “provocations” before being beaten.
It would be easy to speak about this only in terms of the NFL. But this goes way beyond the NFL. It goes deep into daily lives of people. It is tragic. It is indefensible. It is pure criminal. However, too many people look at domestic abuse as Mr. Smith does. They automatically blame the victim for “provoking” the abuse. So, instead of these vicious attackers being locked up in jail, they are given suspended sentences or probation like in the two cases above.
I mentioned the two recent NFL cases because they show the unbelievable tolerance society shows to the abuser and the demonization of the victim. In the case of Mr. Hardy, if the NFL does not act before the appeal, which they usually do not, then he will be able to play the full season. Oh, by the way, he will make $13 million this season.
More than that, the NFL’s handling of these cases do not show a “no tolerance” policy towards domestic abuse. It really shows that it will be punished only if you consider a slap on the wrist a punishment.
It is easy to come up with the usual argument about coddling athletes. We see it in high school, college, and the professional levels. If someone can play a sport exceedingly well, we tend to look the other way when they commit crimes. The NFL was quick to point out that Mr. Rice was going to lose two paychecks and that would mean about $230,000. When you consider his multi-million dollar contract, that is a drop in the bucket. Can anyone really call that a deterrence?
Sports is not the only place where domestic violence takes place. It happens all of the time in everyday life. But, sports is where we can send clear signals that this kind of behavior is not acceptable. I am not sure that either Mr. Rice or Mr. Hardy lose their right to play football. But, in order to really deter this kind of violence, a year’s suspension seems a more reasonable punishment. If players lose a full year of income, that will be a deterrence. It may also send a clear message to lower players in high school and college that they cannot behave like cavemen and expect to be rewarded on the field.
I have never been one who believes in excessive punishment, except in domestic and/or child abuse cases. Maybe we should have a punishment where the guilty party is tied to a post and every woman in the community is allowed to give two lashes with a whip. Men who abuse women are really domestic terrorists who conduct torture. That is what domestic abuse really is. These men are animals. Maybe we should start treating them as such.