Don't jump to conclusions: I do not think Ray Rice did nothing wrong.
The TMZ videos confirm he can be a brute.
But, as I was mostly appalled--along with the rest of the world I suppose--with Roger Goodell's initial penalty for the Running Back, I now think the world has gone overboard in trying to right some bad judgement from a path that was messed up from the start.
To be sure, Rice seriously clocked his now wife--Janay Palmer--and now we have a pretty good look at before and after.
There have been so many analysts spitting it out how men should never hit women, and I agree, although I kind of think women should never hit men, either. Hitting is not a good thing, no matter who does it, so while I understand that Janay might need a crow bar to return the favor to Ray, it is indeed the lashing out that needs addressing for it is the main behavior that needs modification.
I am, though, curious as to why everyone seems so shocked as to how visceral Ray's knockout punch really was?
I mean, we see him drag her, unconscious, out of the elevator, and even go back to pick up Janay's errant shoe. How did anyone think she got that way? A ruffie? Sodium Penethol?
Aside from the fact that there was a police investigation, and apparently Rice has been somewhat contrite about admitting he belted Janay, what did we think the blow would look like? Gentler?
Yet when the McGuffin-like imaginary punch turned into an actual video, suddenly the league and team were shocked and Rice lost his job and ability to play in the league.
He also lost his Nike contract, his likeness on the EA Madden football game, and god forbid, if you liked Ray and bought one of his jerseys, the Ravens will let you trade it in for another number.
Again, I am not so much defending Rice as suggesting he too has become a victim of a set of inadequate guidelines from the NFL and then the incredibly fickle judgments of the media and public.
So, think about this.
The incident was reported to the police. Rice was charged, and he has begun going to counselling with Palmer.
And, though I agree--as I wrote at the time--two games was an insignificant penalty relative to say Wes Welker losing four games for illegal self-medication.
But, the league had no rule for Rice, or for the other 75 players charged with spousal abuse since 2000, none of whom seemed to merit a mention save Jovan Belcher last year. But, it was only Belcher's sad actions after the arrest that caught our attention.
That incident did, however, offer Goodell and the owners an even more high profile opportunity to take a stand on spousal abuse--under far more dramatic circumstances--but, well, they all fumbled.
What about the idea of double jeopardy (ok, so the NFL front office is not a court of law), and changing the punishment to Rice after the fact? Total bullshit, that is, and if you think not, imagine if you were arrested for spousal abuse where you work?
True, your employer might fire you, but more than likely, you would be required to seek help (which Rice is doing) and perhaps face some kind of disciplinary action at work.
For a first offense--of which this is Rice's, anywhere, it seems--that would pretty much be it. It isn't like after levying judgment, your employer or the court would say, "hey, what we sentenced you to was incorrect, we are going to change it to make us look better."
And what about it being Rice's first offense--not that the anger or frustration might not have been building for years, or even that he has lashed out before, and we didn't know about it--and giving people a second chance? Or, at least a chance to learn and redeem themselves?
Now, I am not saying Nike was wrong for terminating their contract. That is appropriate, but something the company should have done months ago, but really, taking him out of Madden football? How petty and punitive is that? Or, allowing fans to trade in their jerseys?
That is just mean-spirited at this point. Had the Ravens, like Nike, taken action right away stating that spousal abuse had no part in their organization, that might have seemed harsh, but for me I would have understood.
But now that the punch is public instead of just the aftermath of the holocaust, suddenly the NFL and Ravens have become holier than though.
If you asked me, suspending Rice for a year off the top, giving him that time to go to counselling and get his life together to go with a year's NFL suspension, seems appropriate. That strikes me as a business dealing directly with an employee who is facing a challenge, and even supportive of him or her.
But, now, after a first series of penalties, changing the parameters, and essentially casting both Rice and Palmer to the emotional wolves is beyond inappropriate and cruel.
It is wrong.