The NFL’s Mindless Misogyny: Why Was Ray Rice Given a Slap on the Wrist for Beating His Fiancée?

Professional football players can be suspended up to a year for marijuana, yet the Baltimore Ravens’ star running back was given a measly two-game suspension for brutally assaulting his bride-to-be in a video that’s gone viral.

07.25.14 9:45 AM ET

This is a thing that happened. A man in peak physical condition, possessing strength that would put the average person to shame, was caught on video dragging his unconscious, much smaller fiancée (now wife) by the hair out of an elevator at a casino in Atlantic City.

You can watch it here.

What occurred prior has not been made public, but according to witnesses that spoke to Deadspin, the alleged assailant threw an “uppercut,” while another said he struck her “like he [would punch] a guy.”

The gentleman in question is Ray Rice, star running back for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. Today, it was announced that as “punishment,” he will be suspended for the first two games of the regular season, and levied an additional fine of $58,000 in addition to a prorated loss of salary.

If you think two Sundays of sitting at home seems like a fairly light slap on the wrist for what by all accounts was a brutal assault, you’d be absolutely right, especially in light of the punishments that the NFL has meted out for other transgressions—namely those that concern performance enhancing drugs and/or controlled substances.

Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns is looking at a year on the sidelines for marijuana and alcohol use. Granted, he’s a repeat offender with what appears to be an actual substance abuse issue, but Ace Sanders, the Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver, just got four games for a second violation.

Daryl Washington got sent home for a season, but not because he got busted for two counts of aggravated assault of his girlfriend, for which he received a year’s probation.

And the list goes on and on. Via Aaron Gordon of Sports on Earth, here’s a list of the 27 players that have been suspended since 2006. According to the NFL’s math, a helmet-to-helmet hit that occurred during a game is the equivalent of Rice’s vicious attack.

Sports On Earth

That’s bad enough, but take a look at what the Ravens’ head coach, Jim Harbaugh, said upon hearing of the suspension.

“It’s just part of the process. We always said from the beginning that the circumstances would determine the consequences,” Harbaugh said. “There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray, he’s a heck of a guy, he’s done everything right since. He makes a mistake, he’s gonna have to pay a consequence.

“I think that’s good for kids to understand it works that way, that’s how it works, that’s how it should be. We’ll move forward, and the next guy will have to step up and Ray will be back when the time comes. It’s not something that we’re dwelling on, we’re not worrying about it, we’re just moving forward.”

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That’s right, parents. Make sure you remind your kids that Ray’s a heck of a guy and this two-game suspension is a fair and just punishment. Tell your boys that they can beat the tar out of a girl, and as long as they can average more than 4 yards a carry, they can pretty much get away with it.

And you girls out there, if you get smacked around by your man, make sure you explain how it’s partially your fault during an absolutely awful, team-sponsored press conference. Now, would you gals be interested in purchasing this glittery pink Ray Rice jersey as a show of support?

Why would the NFL render such a patently awful decision, one that states that personal drug use is a more heinous offense than beating the daylights out of a woman?

Well, for starters, there are some very powerful, wealthy forces that are engaged in a continuation of the status quo when it comes to prohibition laws, even for non-physically addictive substances like marijuana. The drug-testing industrial complex is a $1.4 billion-a-year industry that is deeply invested in seeing that contractual agreements among employers and employees supersede legalization efforts.

Here you can read the lovely story of a telemarketer in Colorado that got canned after failing a test, even though he had a legitimate medical reason and a prescription.

The organizations trying to bring attention to the insidious proliferation of domestic violence, however, don’t have nearly as much clout or lobbying dollars, but the numbers alone are horrifying.

·      One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

·      An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.

·      85% of domestic violence victims are women.

·      Historically, females have been most often victimized by someone they knew.

·      Females who are 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.

·      Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: This is not about pro athletes in the NFL or any other sport. The NBA is just as bad. Take a look at Aaron McGuire’s column and read the disturbing rap sheet. If you’re tempted to howl that this proves that they’re all “thugs” or “criminals,” please stop now.

America has a problem with domestic violence. The NFL has a problem with how seriously it takes violence against women because there’s zero economic incentive for them to do so. Fans might walk away if they think they’re “all on the dope” but for the most part, they really don’t care what athletes do off the field, as long as they’re not prohibited from playing and helping Team X win.

Take a look at what SportsCenter tweeted after the news came to light.

On their broadcast this morning, Adam Schefter wondered if the “punishment” was “lenient enough” before the rest of the crew turned the conversation to how the Ravens’ offense will function versus the Steelers and Bengals without their lead ballcarrier.

And the NFL Network described the suspension as Rice “dealing with the iron fist of the NFL,” before quickly pivoting to a conversation about the Thursday night schedule, which (shocker) will be broadcast on the NFL Network.

That may seem callous at best and providing ample cover for Rice and the league as a whole at worst, but they’re just giving their viewers what they want. And yes, I’m including myself in this group. I root for the New York Knicks. They employ an individual that not only has a serious drug problem; he was convicted of vehicular manslaughter. I have not stopped rooting for the Knicks in general or this player in particular, so I’m just as guilty of this hypocrisy as anyone else.

At The Nation, Dave Zirin wrote today that, “When its ‘breast cancer awareness month’ begins, people should take these jerseys and light a big old bonfire outside of NFL stadiums. They are symbols of a monstrous joke that sees women as either revenue streams, cheerleaders or collateral damage to what takes place on the field.”

He’s right, and I’d like to see a day when a demonstration like he describes might occur. But for now, it won’t. And until it does, we’ll be outraged at the next non-punishment for the next Ray Rice, and then the next, and then the next.