The video evidence should have never been necessary. You already knew that Ray Rice — a one-time star running back for the Baltimore Ravens — knocked his wife unconscious during a February incident at an Atlantic City hotel. You already saw the video evidence of Rice dragging the unconscious body of his then-fiancee, now wife Janay out of the elevator and into the lobby. Why did you need to see the violent, left-handed sucker punch the 212-pound athlete landed, sending the head of the woman he alleges to love bouncing off a metal hand rail inside that elevator? What exactly did you think happened? Domestic violence is wrong no matter the circumstance, and Rice’s actions deserved more than the flimsy two-game ban NFL commissioner Roger Goodell originally imposed. He shouldn’t have needed video — evidence Goodell allegedly and disputedly didn’t see until gossip site TMZ released it Monday — to take more action. Once the damning, grainy video evidence reached the public, outrage swelled. Rice ended up with a indefinite ban, and the Ravens released him after months of cowering to defend the former standout player. Even the Canadian Football League took the opportunity to say it would also ban him, not giving him a potential outlet to play during his suspension. “No one should ever sign him again,” became a common refrain. And that’s where I lose my patience with the court of public opinion. Michael Vick found himself entwined in a brutal dog-fighting ring he helped finance and support. Eventually, the formerly electric quarterback made his way back to the league with plenty of media puff pieces on how he just “needed a second chance.” Donte Stallworth, a well-traveled wide receiver, killed a guy — literally. He struck a pedestrian with his car and eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and DWI. Three different teams picked him up post conviction. Ray Lewis (linked to a murder), Brandon Marshall (twice accused of domestic violence) and Josh Gordon (multiple crimes, suspended for all of 2014) are examples of players who have come up against serious allegations and legal troubles and survived to be stars in the NFL. Many disagree with Gordon’s current ban and can’t wait to welcome him back. Marshall stars on an NFL show on Showtime. Ray Lewis has a statue outside of the Ravens’ stadium. Heck, Ray McDonald faces allegations of felony domestic violence from less than two weeks ago involving his pregnant girlfriend. The San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle played Sunday afternoon against the Cowboys, and the team declined to change its stance on his eligibility after Rice’s stiffer punishment came down. Apparently, we now judge our outrage toward professional athletes in trouble based on TMZ pageviews and the level of scorn reporters convey after being apparently lied to. Be as bad as you want to be; just avoid the cameras. Rice deserves his punishment, and he won’t face charges because Janay refuses to press them. That might be the saddest part of the whole situation — a woman who came out Tuesday afternoon in defense of her husband, claiming they have “true love.” I’ve never known true love to involve one partner jaw-jacking the other. Let’s just not let the outrage of this situation overshadow the bigger issue. If we as a society want to take a stand against domestic violence, let’s avoid being selective in how we dole out the dismay. The problem is much larger than one incident caught on video, and keeping Rice from playing another down in the NFL doesn’t do enough to promote awareness or help for those who need help escaping an abusive relationship.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Citizen_Ross.