Richson: Ray Rice scandal should set a precedent


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I grew up watching football. My father played in college, and my younger brother has been groomed since elementary school to hopefully do the same. I attended cheerleading camp one summer … it wasn’t for me. But I never stopped loving the game as a spectator. Football brings back some of the fondest memories of my childhood.

Although I can’t necessarily recall for sure, I have to believe that the celebrity status of today’s professional football players exceeds that of football players 10 years ago, at least on some level. Well-known players are perceived as super-human both on and off the field.

Sports hold a unique power to ignite a conversation about social realities that are more than just a game. Unfortunately, now that the NFL has been cornered by the media’s release of Ray Rice publicly assaulting his then-fiancée, a conversation that should have happened months ago has been forced.

The conversation has taken a variety of directions, all of which detract from the issue at hand: As an NFL player, Rice deserves no leeway for his actions, either from the law or from the NFL. It is not the public’s place to question why Janay Rice continues to stand by her husband, because we cannot possibly empathize with that intimate of a perspective, nor to question the integrity of the media for suddenly releasing the video as an act of sensationalization, despite the fact that the NFL had already seen it.

It may have occurred in a roundabout way, but the conversation is here, so let’s have it.

There is no place for the tolerance of domestic violence in the NFL, where young fans such as myself 10 years ago are ill-equipped to imagine the man on the field as a man off the field. There is also no place for cover-ups of domestic violence committed by the NFL’s players; the NFL can’t baby-sit, but it is in a position to appropriately reprimand. And when punishments for inappropriate tweets seem to be on the same page as punishments for domestic violence, a clear message is not being sent.

No parent wants to have to explain to their child that their favorite player was cut from their favorite team because he was caught beating his wife, but the fact is, this decision should have been internally made months ago, an error on the NFL’s part.

I feel for Janay Rice’s statement of disgust with the media, for digging up pain she has probably buried far, far down in her mind, but this is unfortunately an example that needs to be set for the sake of impressionable young fans. The media have the NFL’s hands tied.

It becomes harder and harder to dissociate the aura of the professional athlete from corruption and exceptions. I hope, for the sake of my own kids, that precedents continue to be set … not in a forced manner, but with an active mind, for the good of the game.

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