In a groundbreaking decision last week, the NFL admitted that beating a woman is worse than smoking a joint.
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald apparently missed the memo. McDonald was arrested early Sunday morning on felony domestic violence charges involving his pregnant fiancée, who reportedly showed police bruises on her neck and arms.
If McDonald had beaten up his future wife three days earlier, he may have missed two games. Now, under new, “tougher” penalties created by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, McDonald, if convicted, will likely be suspended for six games without pay. If he does it again, under the new rules, he faces a lifetime ban from the league, with an option to pursue reinstatement after one year.
(I guess the NFL finds it more “disruptive” to have a gay man in the locker room than a serial wife beater.)
The stiffer personal conduct sanctions aren’t retroactive, so Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens – videotaped in February dragging his then-fiancée out of an Atlantic City elevator after allegedly knocking her unconscious— gets away with his two-game ban. Rice was indicted by a grand jury for aggravated assault, but he pleaded not guilty and was accepted into a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders that clears him of charges if he stays out of trouble and attends regular counseling.
Let’s hope he does for the sake of his victim, I mean new wife, Janay Palmer.
An estimated one in four women in the United States will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime. Just a hunch, but I think the NFL and Goodell are more concerned with another stat about women, who currently comprise 45 percent of the NFL audience.
Still, we welcome him and the game into the 21st century. Domestic violence is a complicated issue. It’s a serious crime, not a private family matter or – as ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith would have us believe – the victim’s fault. The NFL should exercise its right to discipline a player for his conduct just like any other employer.
The new NFL disciplinary rules are an important first step in regarding domestic violence as a serious issue, but even more critical is the league’s pledge to spend more time and energy at rookie and player orientations to discuss domestic violence. Goodell says this educational component will be expanded into college, high school and youth football programs to address domestic violence and sexual assault.
If Goodell and the NFL truly want to “do better” and bring about cultural change, then it’s prevention that will ultimately make the difference. Domestic violence doesn’t end with fallen sports heroes. It’s over when boys and young men grow up learning that violence against women is wrong and unacceptable – even when you sign seven-figure contracts and wear pads.