My apologizes for not discussing this earlier because I know this happened a while ago but that doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant anymore. The NFL is still a boiling pot and I’m going to tell you why.
It all started with Ray Rice when he violated the league’s personal conduct policy and was suspended two games on July 25 for beating his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in February.
The NFL was taking a stand against domestic violence and holding those who commit crimes accountable. I was okay with that and thought the punishment was appropriate considering Rice was a first-time offender. The internet and sports fans exploded in outrage despite that fact that “First-time offenders, such as Rice, typically are suspended a month or less by the league. In the past three years, only 12 players have received more than four-game suspensions, and all were repeat offenders.”
Rice was charged with third-degree aggravated assault, the least serious of the three degrees and if prosecutors felt that charge echoed the severity of the case, that was good enough for me.
Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league repeatedly said that they had not seen the footage of the incident and sentenced Rice to the two-game suspension having not seen it.
Then, the video was leaked by TMZ, everyone saw it and chaos ensued. This tends to happen when you deliver a verdict without all the evidence. It would be akin to sentencing someone to life in prison for a murder before the DNA tests were entered into evidence. That’s just not a good idea. However, Goodell said he didn’t know anything. Whether he had seen the footage or not, what he did next only worsened the situation, revoking Rice’s two-game suspension and enforcing an indefinite suspension.
Perhaps the majority of people find this justifiable. However, imagine if you were convicted of domestic violence and had served half of your two-year sentence. The public is outraged because of the injustice they believed to have occurred and the fact that you didn’t get more time than you did. The judge, responding to that pressure, says, “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that your two-year sentence has been revoked. The bad news is that I’m sentencing you to life.”
If that happened to you, you would be pretty pissed. Why? Because things called due process and double jeopardy exist in America and you, just like every other American citizen, are entitled to them.
Just because you don’t like the outcome of a trial doesn’t mean you can have another one so it can end the way you want it to. If that’s how you think the justice system works, you’re wrong.
If that was how it worked, you could be harassed for a crime you committed 20 years ago forever, being tried again and again until the mob that is society got what they wanted: a guilty verdict.
If you still think that’s how it works, let me know when you get O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, and George Zimmerman back in a court room because we all know mistakes were made.
As much as we’d like those previous three individuals to be penalized for what they allegedly did, that’s not how justice works. You’ve got one chance. If you make a mistake, then that’s that. You don’t get a mulligan or a redo.
Roger Goodell’s actions did not just violate the rights of Ray Rice, but the fundamentals of the U.S. Constitution and the basic principles this country was founded on.
Ray Rice has become a scapegoat for the Nancy Grace-ers of America, who want to see anyone who commits a crime rot for the rest of their lives. His livelihood has been taken away, his passion, and his teammates and coaches, many of which I’m sure he calls friends. Ray Rice is financially stable I’m sure, but that is not the point here. The point is a man is being shouldered with burdens of all current and former NFL players who dealt with off-the-field domestic issues. Ray Rice committed but one of those.
With the societal mob carrying around their pitchforks and hate mail, Ray Rice has been left with two options: take the suspension and remain quiet, which means he’s willingly being wronged or appeal the suspension, which will only seek to enrage the mob further. Appealing the “justice” the mob has dissed out makes Rice only seem all the more guilty, which will spur irreparable damage to his reputation. It’s a lose-lose situation.
I do not condone what Rice did, but if I have to choose between Rice and rights being violated, I’m going to choose Rice. If you allow one person’s rights to get trampled, you better be ready for your own to be, and I like my rights.
Alas, the witch hunt wasn’t over, as the mob that is the public began looking for anyone with a suspicious background. They found another.
NFL superstar Adrian Peterson was indicted on a count of reckless or negligent injury to a child. Without Adrian Peterson the following Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings were disassembled like a craft held together by Elmer’s glue, committing four turnovers in the Patriots 30-7 win. Following the game, the Vikings reinstated Peterson in what appeared to be a motion of good faith. General manager Rick Spielman said, “…But we also think it is right for (Peterson) to go through the process legally… Whether it’s an abusive situation or not or whether (Peterson) went too far in disciplining, we feel very strongly that that is the court’s decision to make.”
“Finally!” I said to myself. Someone who understands the concept of innocent until proven guilty.
Two days later, the Vikings not only revoked that reinstatement, but suspended him indefinitely as well, despite the fact that Peterson had not been convicted of anything.
In the same ESPN article that they highlight the new update, it reads, “Minnesota then reinstated Peterson on Monday, citing concern for due process and the legal proceedings.”
Well, I wonder what could have possibly caused them to change their minds?
“Executives were at the team’s Winter Park headquarters late into the night Tuesday, discussing how to respond to the avalanche of criticism of their Monday announcement.”
That’s right. The owners and executives of the Minnesota Vikings decided to ignore their “concern for due process and the legal proceedings” in favor of “responding to the avalanche of criticism.” That is stupid. They, like Goodell, let the mob of public opinion become their puppeteers.
Adrian Peterson is one of the best and most respected athletes in the league and has become known for dealing with the media in a respectable fashion. He didn’t fail to do that after the announcement. His agent told The Associated Press that “this is the best possible outcome given the circumstances.”
We all know better than that. This, as well as all of the disciplinary actions Goodell and the NFL have made, could have been handled a lot better.
There are still plenty of problems. Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy has been convicted on two counts of domestic violence, yet Peterson, not Hardy, found himself on the exempt list first. It is up to the team to place players on the exempt list, I acknowledge that, but I nonetheless think something is wrong when someone suspected of something is “jailed” before someone who has been convicted.
The 49ers Ray McDonald is being investigated on felony domestic violence charges but is still playing with the permission of both the 49ers and the NFL. It’s a shame that Adrian Peterson couldn’t have been granted the same luxury as someone who assaulted his pregnant fiance, which is a felony. While child abuse can also be a felony offense, it can also be a misdemeanor with potentially no jail time.
If the NFL is going to try to turn over a new leaf and start on a fresh page, they need to demonstrate some universal rules first rather than team organizations handling the problems internally. All rights need to be respected equally, not only who the public deems fit.
How I feel about the NFL and their dealings was best summed up by Bears receiver Brandon Marshall on September 18: “Because of my story and my experience and only using my story, we have to let the process play itself out, whether the process is a day or the process is a month, and we have gathered all the facts before we can go playing judge and jury, and that’s the only issue that I have with all these changes and even the changes I think we should make. We just have to make sure we’re doing our due diligence and really looking at things from a neutral standpoint.”
Marshall is absolutely right. My frustration with the NFL is not because I have a problem with players being held accountable for their actions. They need to be held accountable just like everyone else. What I have a problem with is the public making judgments before all the evidence is laid out. When they do that, they are doing exactly what Goodell did when he suspended Rice for two games before seeing the leaked footage. Know all the facts before you start sending people to the gallows. The NFL needs to grow a backbone and not let their legal proceedings be directed by the emotional, radical critic. You want to be the leaders against domestic violence and crime? Start acting like it.