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Apparently, the NFL doesn’t take issues of documented domestic violence too seriously. Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, the running back who dragged his then-fiancee (now wife) Janay Palmer, out of an elevator unconscious in Atlantic City, will only be suspended for two games.

The punishment is a result of Rice violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

In a statement, released by the Ravens, Rice said:

It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault. As I said earlier, I failed in many ways. But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night. The counseling has helped tremendously. My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident. I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously. My actions going forward will show that.”

Ravens general manager, Ozzie Newsome called the ruling “fair” and added,

That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect. We believe that he will not let that one night define who he is, and he is determined to make sure something like this never happens again.” 

Rice is currently enrolled in a program for first-time offenders that includes family counseling and will also clear his record of criminal charges if he meets all the conditions.

Can we agree that this “punishment,” if you can even call it that, is completely unacceptable and sends a terrible message on behalf of the NFL?

As USA Today Maggie Hendricks noted, far lesser offenses receive stronger punishments. Repeat offenders who violate a drug policy will be suspended for four games. A violent tackle will get you kicked out of one game. And if you haven’t quite made it to the NFL yet, selling your autograph while in college will get you “sat down” for five games.

But apparently, proof of you beating your fiancee and the mother of your child unconscious and then dragging her out of a public elevator like she’s a piece of trash is only worth two games.

This is not even just about Ray Rice anymore. When 1 in 3 women will be abused throughout the course of her lifetime, often by a member of her own family, it’s a problem not unique to Rice. We’ve seen it play out far too many times just in recent months with other celebrities beating their girlfriends, wives or fiancees. I believe in redemption and all that and the counseling might actually be working for him. But a part of learning the lesson is being adequately punished. And a two game suspension is more or less an extended time out. It’s not good enough for Rice, it’s not good enough for the other women who suffered like Janay but didn’t have their abuse recorded and broadcast and it’s not good enough for the young boys who will grow up thinking this wasn’t “that big of a deal.”

With this puny suspension, the NFL proves that they don’t really take violence against women seriously. I know you’ve heard the comparisons drawn thousands of times by now, but Michael Vick was practically stoned in the town square for allowing his friends to use his property for dog fights. I love dogs and dog fighting is wrong but I value the lives of women far more than dogs. Sorry, not sorry.

The only message this punishment sends is that violence against women can be forgiven with a press conference, pathetic statement and a two game suspension.

As Hendricks writes to the NFL: “Don’t tell me you care about women’s health come October. Don’t pink wash the whole league and pay lip service to how much you care about women. Don’t trot out breast cancer survivors as symbols of the NFL’s close relationship with women and then give a man who threatened a woman’s health–ON TAPE– a two game suspension.” 

Amen.

The NFL is about money. And they know the majority of their revenue is tied to public perception of their image. Sadly, the league got the message that men, their target audience and demographic, wouldn’t care one way or another what happened to Palmer, a Black woman, that night. And they subsequently didn’t care about the consequences Rice, the perpetrator of the violence, faced as a result.

Yes, the NFL dropped the ball. But really, their decision is just a clear indicator of just how much the whole country (and various parts of the world) really value women and their well-being. If you didn’t get the message, ladies, your life and well-being are worth two football games.

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