Ray Rice has been issued a two game suspension by the NFL for his assault of his then-fiance-now-wife (TFNW). While many have expressed outrage at the apparent leniency, I look at the suspension as appropriate and to be expected.
There are two reasons for my conclusion: money and privacy.
When the setting of an incident is a multi-billion dollar industry, money is usually the first consideration. Ray Rice is one of the primary players for a team that won the Super Bowl two seasons ago. When his team plays he is one of the points of focus for the other team and for the people broadcasting the game. Translation: Ray Rice is one of the reasons people watch the game; ergo Ray Rice is one of the reasons the NFL makes money. It was never realistic to expect the NFL to eliminate his presence for an extended period of time because it might affect their bottom line.
But I also think not only would that have been a foolhardy business decision but also one that might not have been able to be justified. Because from all accounts Ray Rice was retaliating when he assaulted his TFNW. The video footage is quite nauseating – Rice is dragging an apparently dragging his fiancée off an elevator after having struck her. I don’t need to defend Rice because his wife is doing that. She went to counseling with him; she spoke to the NFL commissioner with him and on his behalf. It is easy to make an argument that she didn’t and doesn’t want Rice to have a permanent black mark against him because of this incident.
Did Rice overreact? Of course. But what is worth noting, and what I think the TFNW has been highlighting is that a reaction was coming and justified. Rice made the mistake of forgetting that he is a professional football player and can overpower most people on the planet. But when you’re being assaulted with a weapon, you tend to forget yourself and react quickly. Context matters.
Lastly some are criticizing the NFL and his organization for the leniency of the discipline. Hogwash. Toward the end of each NFL season there are a bunch of newscasts that talk about dozens of scenarios in which a bunch of tiebreakers will determine which teams make the playoffs. Two games can be the difference between a losing record or a trip to the postseason and with a little luck a championship. Obviously a four game suspension would have been more severe but let’s not pretend that two games can’t have an effect on the team’s season.
If Rice had assaulted my sister or daughter I would definitely want him to pay. But I can’t imagine why my feelings would (or should) trump those of his TFNW or why I would expect that the people he makes money would agree with me.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.