On Feb. 5, Ray Rice, the former starting running back for the Baltimore Ravens, assaulted his then-fiance Janay Palmer in a hotel elevator. Months after the assault occurred, the NFL brought it back into the news and the forefront of everyone’s minds when they decided that Rice deserved a two-game suspension.
Many viewed the suspension as a slap on the wrist for such a serious crime, but the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, stood by the decision, claiming that there was no way to really know what happened that night. A few weeks after the public outrage had died down, a video from TMZ was released showing the severity of the incident, as well as evidence claiming the NFL had known all the facts right from the start.
Since the release of the elevator video, Rice has been dropped by his team and suspended indefinitely by the NFL. While many were pleased with his suspension, there is still a chance that he will make it back into the league someday. Because Rice’s punishment differs from what the NFL bylaws mandate, there may be a way back in for him.
“Rice has been suspended indefinitely, which would seem to exceed the conventional penalty,” USF legal studies professor Robert Elias said. “Thus, he could mount a legal challenge based on the NFL not following its own rules.”
The NFL could still win in court if they show that the decision to suspend Rice was in the best interest of the game. They would also strengthen their case if Rice is convicted, but that this is unlikely because his fiance is choosing to defend him.
“Based on the elevator tape, assault charges could be brought against Rice, but they wouldn’t go very far if those charges are not supported by the victim: his wife – and it appears that she’s not willing to press charges, and appears instead to be apologizing for him,” Elias said.
Elias sees Rice’s actions not as an anomaly, but rather a recurring theme in the NFL and sports in general these days.
“There appears to be a pattern of domestic and other violence coming from the sports world,” Elias said. “It also seems related to the sense of entitlement that big time athletes assume, and often that means that women – even their wives – are simply at their disposal, which isn’t very promising for how they will be treated.”
While it is currently the most talked about, Rice’s case is not the only one to cause recent controversy. Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was convicted of assaulting a woman in July, and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald is currently being investigated for domestic assault. The Panthers chose to sit Hardy this past weekend, but the 49ers claim they will wait for McDonald’s case to play out before making a decision. Most recently, Vikings star player Adrian Peterson was arrested after beating his son with a tree branch.
Despite the release of the video, there are still some who believe that Ray Rice deserves a second chance.
“You have people like Donte Stallworth, who killed a person while drunk driving and still played in the league, you have Ray Lewis who, while never convicted, was involved in someone’s death, and then there is Michael Vick with the whole dogfighting thing,” said Ian Sanger, a junior urban studies major.
Sanger feels that while Rice’s actions were reprehensible, he is being “raked over the coals,” and that it would be a bad idea to ruin his career over one bad thing that he did.
Kyle Jacobson, a junior biomedical studies major at USF, said that while he thinks Rice is a bad person, he also believes his suspension is unfair.
“As someone whose dad went to jail for domestic violence, I think that the incident shouldn’t define him as a person, as everyone deserves a second chance, and should be allowed to learn from their mistakes,” Jacobson said.
In contrast, junior media studies major Ellie Vanderlip thinks that such allowing Rice back onto the field would be an endorsement of physical abuse on their part.
“He has many fans, a lot of whom are likely men or young men who, without retribution for his actions, will have clear justification for acting like he did,” Vanderlip said.
The most recent news about Rice is that he plans to sue the NFL over his indefinite suspension. Even if the case does go to trial, there is no guarantee that Rice will make it back in the NFL. If he does, a team would have to make the choice to sign him, but that may prove to be too volatile an option for any teams to entertain.