Feminist perspective on Ray Rice and domestic violence

Trigger warning: abuse

By Evelyn Gonzalez ‘18
Feminism Columnist

At this point, the NFL may be better known for its excessive amount of cover ups rather than its impressive number of touchdowns.
It is always too little, too late with the NFL isn’t it? It seems to be at a loss about what to do when its reputation is jeopardized, as evidenced by its constant issuance of apologies to the public instead of punishments to its players. It is getting pretty old and pathetic having to watch yet again as the NFL tries to scrape another player’s tainted image from the throngs of social media outlets.
 On Feb. 19, Ray Rice, a running back from the Baltimore Ravens, was captured on tape dragging his wife’s unconscious body from an elevator. It was of no surprise to me when the Ravens’ representatives quickly came to his defense and tried to cover up the assault charges to minimize the chance of having to remove him from the team. They did, however, set a whopping two-day suspension. After the release of this tape there was an outcry over the NFL’s treatment of this issue, forcing them to reassess Rice’s assault and issue a harsher punishment. Rice was indicted on aggravated assault charges although the court allowed him to complete a 12-month program instead of the possible maximum charge of five years in prison. He was suspended indefinitely. This wasn’t over concern of the well being of his partner; but rather the NFL was more concerned about the public backlash than the real issue. The punishment for domestic violence, especially within the NFL, was not — and almost never is — fitting of the crime committed.
 We have this notion of the untouchable athlete where we focus in on their careers rather than the lives and various physio-emotional states of those they assaulted. We live in the type of society that still asks what she could have done to warrant his violence and aggression. People make comments speculating what she could have done to deserve something like this, implying (or even outright stating) that perhaps it was justified.
This is not just an issue of aggression on the part of professional athletes anymore; it is the outright enabling and tolerance of the violence against women. This was not, after all, the first time the topic of domestic violence was brought up nor the first time we have seen questionable actions taken against players, if any action was taken at all. You do not need to look very hard to find everything the NFL has tried to keep private in regards to this matter. According to the database created by USA Today, “domestic violence accounts for 85 of the 713 arrests of NFL players since 2000.”
If we allow this kind of blatant violence against women to occur here, a perfectly conspicuous area covered by mainstream media, what else are we letting slide or being pushed under the rug as a result of our own indifference and skewed priorities?
 It is perfectly clear to me that the NFL has no interest in supporting women if it means one of their players has to take some bench time. To them, the business and the game is more important than a person. The most important thing we can do in these situations is continue to voice our own frustrations and concerns about the policies of the NFL and their treatment towards domestic violence.