Domestic Violence And The NFL

What Ray Rice, the now former star running back for the Baltimore Ravens, did was hideous.

An athlete, in peak physical fitness, punches his then-fiancé so hard as to render her unconscious. The video of this attack is difficult to watch without feeling both helpless and angry. Domestic violence, unlike many violent crimes, is made more insidious because it is committed by a person close to the victim, a person who should be a protector and not a predator.

However, the public reaction by some is just another example of what I like to call MAD, Misguided Attention Disorder. As with Ferguson, the overreaction by the media, professional agitators and benevolent politicians is more self-serving than helpful, and will quickly fade away.

Because of the notoriety of the perpetrator, some have suggested the Rice case will help to serve as a reminder, a catalyst for change. This was also the case when Rihanna, Steve McNair, Robin Givens, Tina Turner, Madonna, Phil Hartman, Kasandra M. Perkins and countless others were victims of domestic abuse. Famous or faceless, it makes no difference, the temporary spotlight that is pointed at this tragedy usually only serves to help TV ratings, challenge news editors to come up with the most sensational headline or line the pockets of unscrupulous “activists.”

To pile on the NFL and Rice, 16 female U.S. senators, include New Hampshire’s own Sens. Shaheen and Ayotte, sent a harsh letter to the NFL, expressing how “shocked and disgusted” they were at the lenient punishment initially handed out to Rice. These same senators demanded the NFL enact a zero-tolerance policy, which includes a lifetime ban from the sport. Some in Congress have suggested they hold hearings to look into domestic violence in professional sports. Really, Congress doesn’t have anything else it can focus its attention on? Nothing? $17 trillion dollars in debt, 40 or more U.S. ambassadors waiting approval, the Middle East on fire and Putin trying to recapture the glory of the former Soviet Union. Or how about exposing the serial sexual harassers (and colleagues) Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand described in her latest book “Off the Sidelines”? Those in Congress should not cast stones until they put their own house in order first. Good luck with that.

Funny how many of these senators, the National Organization for Women or Al Sharpton didn’t show this same concern when WNBA superstar and Olympic gold medalist Chamique Holdsclaw was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, criminal damage in the first degree, two counts of criminal damage in the second degree and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. In 2012, Holdsclaw fired a gun into the car of her girlfriend, WNBA star Jennifer Lacy, after smashing all of the vehicle windows.

Where were the calls for investigations when WNBA star Deanna “Tweety” Nolan, viciously beat “the air out of her wife,” Dorothea, in front of their two children? Where were the calls for a zero-tolerance policy when Nolan pulled a gun out and threatened her wife? Where were the calls from NOW for WNBA Commissioner Laurel Richie to step down in light of these two domestic violence cases? Selective indignation is nothing more than self-serving hypocrisy, and that is what we are really witnessing with the Rice case.

I am not trying to make light of domestic violence. On the contrary, as a former police officer, I have seen firsthand the devastating results of domestic violence. It took every ounce of power to stop myself from thrashing the perpetrator. Nevertheless, I did my job and stayed focused on the task. I did this, as all police officers do, because we know this is the best chance for the victim, while deep in our hearts realizing that all of our efforts may fall short.

What Ray Rice did was horrible. The fact the victim in this case married Rice after this incident is unfortunate, but sadly all too common. It is hard to leave the abuser, and often more dangerous to the well-being of the victim. As much as the beatings take their toll, the potential that the abuser will kill the victim if they tried to leave is far greater.

I do not have a solution to this age-old problem. However, long after the spotlight fades and all of the activists have moved on to their next “cause célèbre,” we will still have victims walking into work with long sleeves to cover their bruises. We will still have victims rattling off a list of excuses to explain a black-eye or battered face. After Congress holds its hearings and the NFL enacts a zero-tolerance policy, we will still be burying victims of domestic violence.

Maybe we need fewer activists and more neighbors to call the police when they hear the beatings. Maybe each of us needs to enact a self-imposed zero-tolerance policy, and help our family, friends and neighbors in need. What can Congress do that we as a community could not do better and with more compassion? During the first Baltimore Ravens game held since the release of Rice, thousands of Ravens fans, including many women, decided to wear Ray Rice’s shirt to the stadium. Their reasons varied, but what message does that send? For all the indignation regarding what all of us saw on the Ray Rice video, how can we hold the NFL to a standard we cannot even meet as a society?

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