The NFL's paltry two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice sparked widespread outrage earlier this past spring, and for good reason. Rice was caught on surveillance video dragging his unconscious then-fiancee (now wife) out of a casino elevator after he'd knocked her out during a domestic dispute. Fans, sports writers and women's rights advocates were appalled that the league would slap Rice on the wrist for a violent crime, while sidelining other players with much longer suspensions for actions such as violating league drug policies. Rice was slated to return for the Ravens' third game of the 2014 season, but that all changed overnight when TMZ released footage of the actual beating itself, which took place inside the elevator. And as you watch this, keep in mind that the woman involved apologized in May for "her role" in her own brutal battering, which was ridiculously characterized as a 'mutual' event (content warning):
He hits her once, she comes back at him, then he puts her down with a vicious roundhouse punch -- knocking her out cold. He stands motionless as she lies blacked out on the floor of the elevator, finally reacting when the doors open and he's forced to drag her limp body into the hallway. Previously, the public had only seen the dragging portion of the video clip, shot from a distant camera. The elevator footage is shocking and disgusting, and it proves that there was no accidental element to the result of the confrontation. With a fresh round of blistering criticism swirling around their franchise and one of its star players, the Ravens have terminated Rice's contract. One might argue that this application of justice is "better late than never," but consider the cravenness of the Ravens' decision making timing: They were willing to countenance a two game suspension until the second video leaked. The act of brutality was never in doubt. They knew that he'd punched her out. The only thing that changed was the leak of the clip, which only illustrates the established facts of the case in stark relief. If the new images had never surfaced, it's a safe bet that Ray Rice would be getting ready to suit up in a few weeks.
Facing a maelstrom of criticism over the episode -- prior to this latest shoe dropping -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell rolled out a harsher policy governing the consequences for players involved in domestic abuse incidents several weeks ago. Under the new framework, an initial incident would result in a six-game suspension, followed by a "lifetime ban" for any further infraction. I put that term in air quotes because both elements of the new rule allow for "mitigating" factors, and players are permitted to apply for re-instatement into the league after they've allegedly been banned for life. Loopholes galore. The NFL's new regulations on this front will be put to the test sooner than later, as two active players have been involved in alleged episodes of domestic violence since it was implemented. Parting thought: NFL officials claim they had not seen the elevator film when they handed down Rice's original, lax penalty. Do you believe them? Me neither.
UPDATE - More face-saving posturing:
Roger Goodell has announced that based on new video evidence that became available today he has indefinitely suspended Ray Rice.— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) September 8, 2014
Question for the commish: Is the presence of a camera the only meaningful difference between a two-game and an indefinite suspension for punching out a woman? By the way, Debbie, this is what actual domestic violence looks like.