Ray Rice: Hold your applause for the NFL

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Photo above: Ray Rice after catching a pass in Super Bowl XLVII. (YouTube)

For those who want to congratulate Roger Goodell, the Baltimore Ravens, and the NFL as a whole for extending the suspension of Ray Rice after TMZ released footage of the star running back looking more like a young George Foreman flattening Joe Fraizer, hold your applause. They have done far more harm than good throughout this process.

Commissioner Goodell is fortunate to have increased the money owners swim in.  He should be looking for a new job, but because he has done a terrific job of increasing revenue across the league, he will survive this public relations storm.

There is no excuse for him to have passed judgment on Rice if his claims of not having seen the video are true. How do you hand out a punishment when you know you do not have all the facts? To claim the casino or police would not hand over the tape doesn’t fly.  He could have, and should have, forced Rice’s hand by simply telling him he will be suspended indefinitely until he has seen all of the evidence.

Furthermore, why would he interview Rice’s victim, his then fiancée and now wife, with Ray sitting next to her? Anyone who has seen an episode of Law and Order knows this just doesn’t lead to the truth. Goodell more than fumbled the ball with his investigation, he tried to pull one over the public and it has come back to bite him.

As for the Baltimore Ravens, they are only terminating Rice’s contract because they fear the public’s wrath more than they will miss Rice’s tough running. If Baltimore had any sense of decency, Rice’s contract would have been terminated last spring. However, they had more important matters to contend with like what might happen if Rice received just a two game suspension and then signed with division rivals Pittsburgh or Cincinnati? By releasing him now, that is no longer a fear because no organization short of an Al Davis-run Oakland would sign this guy.

Worst of all is the NFL as a group. What other profession goes so far to find ways to hang on to young men whose conduct is criminal? Whether it is domestic violence, DUI, assault, multiple failed drug tests, or making joke bomb threats at an airport, the NFL rewards far too many of its players with big money contracts when they really should send them packing.

This goes back decades. I remember Bill Parcells cutting a player who missed a team meeting. When the rarely used player pointed out that Lawrence Taylor also missed the meeting, Parcells is reported to have told the young man if he played as well as Taylor played he would still have a job.

The NFL Players Association has to quit fighting the suspensions of the criminal component in the league and start insisting ownership and the league begin taking a harder stance on players who belong behind bars and not on the gridiron. Only when the league office, ownership, and the NFL Players Association agree to rid the league of these players will we begin to see significant improvement in the off field behavior of its players.

Commissioner Goodell and the owners have to view Ray Rice as more than a sacrificial lamb who will hopefully get fans and the media off their backs. They have to view Rice as the start of a new era in the NFL in which players are no longer rewarded with nice contracts while being allowed to live by a set of rules that the rest of us do not get to live by. Only time will tell if today is the beginning of such a new era or just another attempt by the NFL to present an image that just isn’t real.