The NFL suspends players for four games for a DUI conviction, more for smoking marijuana and sometimes season-long evictions for repeated use of performance enhancing drugs. But for beating a woman unconscious, perhaps within inches of her life, Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice will sit out a disgraceful two games.
He should have been kicked off the team and out of the league. But this is the male-dominated NFL, where steroid-induced rage is encouraged, and leadership goes blind when guns appear and domestic violence occurs.
NFL commissioner Roger Goddell didn’t win over any fans, men or women, with such a disgustingly short suspension. But then, there’s a lot about this case that we don’t understand.
For example, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said he supports Rice because “He’s a heck of a guy.” The team’s general manager said the night in question – you can view the offensive video of the assault online -- wasn’t typical of the Rice he knows and respects. Say what?
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Crimes of assault and rape occur with alarming frequency around the jacked-up men who play professional sports. Seldom are charges pursued. Out of court settlements are common.
It’s an unacceptable culture that betrays and demeans women, and undermines our nation’s efforts to champion the rights of women in places like Afghanistan, Nigeria, or Pakistan. Why should people in those countries take our efforts to champion women’s education and women’s rights seriously while our sports “heroes” are beating women senseless and getting away with it?
A culture of tolerance for violence against women has also been the norm for far too long in our nation’s military, too. It took courageous advocacy by women, and presidential and congressional outrage before the military started to take respect for women seriously.
Joint Base Lewis McChord opened a sexual assault response center a year ago. Today, JBLM’s leaders are wondering why they didn’t do it sooner.
JBLM’s sexual assault center provides a variety of services for women who have survived violence in their workplace, including legal, medical, mental health, advocacy and education. Olympia’s SafePlace also provides training and workshops on the base.
Now the military – and the NFL – need to make changing attitudes and preventing violence against women a priority. Both institutions are icons of American national identity and culture, and both have been a source of deep national shame when it comes to respect for the female half of humanity. We welcome the military’s progress on this issue, and urge the NFL to emulate the military’s focus on changing its ways.
Like the military, institutions and organizations can begin to change their culture to one of mutual respect for every individual. In this regard, the NFL needs to join the rest of us in the 21st Century.