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Here’s how the NFL really feels about domestic violence
How Ray Rice’s suspension stacks up against other cases of domestic violence in the NFL.
This story contains descriptions of domestic violence and may be triggering for some readers.
Update: The Ravens ended Rice’s contract Monday afternoon, the team announced on Twitter.
The outrage against Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has been sparked anew after TMZ published new footage of him beating his then-fiancée (and now-wife), Janay Rice (née Palmer), unconscious.
The video, which is violent and graphic in nature and depicts scenes of domestic violence, showed Rice punching Palmer in the face in an elevator at the now-closed Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. Previously, the public had only seen what transpired after the fight in the elevator: Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of the elevator and into a casino.
Rice entered a one-year diversionary program that, once completed, would allow the third-degree aggravated assault charges against him to be dropped, but the NFL took a different approach. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and other officials with the NFL and the Ravens met with Rice and Palmer to discuss the events, which many feel prohibited her from speaking freely while her abuser was in the same room.
Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) May 23, 2014
Rice was suspended for two games and fined $58,000, a punishment many saw as not harsh enough and the NFL has now said it got wrong. The new rules, which wouldn’t apply to Rice, called for an automatic six-game suspension without pay for policies regarding “assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force” and those who have a second offense will be banned from the NFL. Two more cases of domestic violence by NFL players have already come up in the two weeks since the NFL changed their policy on domestic violence.
At the time, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King wrote that “the NFL and some Ravens officials have seen” the other videotape, which captured the altercation (and has since reported otherwise), while ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio said that the NFL hadn’t seen the video.
The NFL’s official statement to TMZ Monday says that while they requested all information related to the incident, “that video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today.”
Ravens officials had not seen this Rice video prior to today but he had described actions in detail. Didn’t “sugarcoat” it source said…
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) September 8, 2014
It’s unclear if the NFL will reopen the investigation into Rice. Many people are finding it hard to believe that Goodell hasn’t seen the video footage until now and are even more outraged at Rice’s punishment than before. And it does absolutely nothing to quell the growing idea that the NFL doesn’t care about women (unless it’s their money) and that sexism runs rampid.
If NFL and Ravens officials didn’t see the Ray Rice video until today, they chose not to. #2games
— Neetzan Zimmerman (@neetzan) September 8, 2014
The fact that the NFL saw the Ray Rice video and still decided to only suspend Rice for 2 games is shameful and disgusting.
— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) September 8, 2014
This is the insidiousness of domestic violence: he hit her and SHE apologized.
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) September 8, 2014
If you wonder why victims of domestic violence feel trapped, imagine how someone feels when they see people blaming Ray Rice’s wife.
— Jesse Taylor (@jesseltaylor) September 8, 2014
No less than 29 players were suspended going into the first week (including Rice), the majority of them for substance abuse or performance-enhancing drugs. USA Today has been keeping a log of every NFL player arrested since 2000, and in 2012, Slate published findings showing that 21 of the 32 NFL teams had employed a player who had a record domestic violence or sexual assault charge.
But how does that compare to other NFL players convicted of domestic violence, and even those who have been suspended on testing positive for banned substances? In comparison, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon got suspended for an entire season after failing another drug test, and it left a bad taste in the mouths of fans. And if you look at the NFL’s past stance on domestic violence, that taste doesn’t go away, even a little bit.
1) A.J. Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings cornerback
Jefferson, who was charged with felony domestic violence after his girlfriend told police that he choked her in November 2013, got swiftly dropped by the Vikings, but he didn’t stay unemployed for too long. Picked up by the Seattle Seahawks, the most recent Super Bowl champions, he’s currently on the injured reserve list after injuring his ankle in a preseason game. The NFL as a whole didn’t punish him.
2) Chad Johnson, Miami Dolphins wide receiver
At one time one of the most visible NFL players on Twitter, Johnson was arrested in August 2012 and charged with misdemeanor domestic battery after his then-wife, who he married the month before, accused him of headbutting her during an argument. The Dolphins dropped him a day later, but he received no further punishment from the NFL. He hasn’t played on a team since.
3) Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver
Bryant turned himself in and was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence charges in 2012 after he allegedly pushed his mother during an argument. He was never punished by the NFL, and he still plays for the Cowboys, even having a part in the disastrous season opener against the 49ers. Last year, he said that he was “done with domestic abuse.”
4) Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears wide receiver
The Bears player was charged with domestic violence not once, but twice, and has the lengthy and troubling rap sheet to go along with it. He’s been involved in 10 separate disputes (many of them involving women) for which he’s never been charged. With everything he’s been charged or accused of over the years, he’s only been suspended one game in 2009 due to charges that he abused his girlfriend (for which he’s been acquitted), and he’s completed anger management after another arrest after he prevented a girlfriend’s taxi from leaving his house.
5) Quinn Ojinnaka, Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman
He received a one-game suspension from the NFL after he was arrested for pushing his wife down the stairs during an argument. He played for three more teams after leaving the Falcons and even started a professional wrestling career.
6) James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker
He was arrested after allegedly hitting his girlfriend, but prosecutors dropped the charges after he entered counseling and his girlfriend didn’t press charges. He was never punished by the NFL. Eventually released by the Steelers because they couldn’t agree on a pay cut, he played with the Cincinnati Bengals before retiring as a Steeler on Sept. 5.
7) Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers defensive end
He was found guilty of assaulting and threatening a woman by a jury back in July and sentenced to 18 months’ probation. He faces that mandatory six-game suspension recently implemented by the NFL if his guilty verdict isn’t overturned, but right now he is still allowed to play and faces something far more trivial: a fine for violating the NFL dress code if he wears face paint of the “Kraken,” his on-field alterego.
Photo via Keith Allison/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Michelle Jaworski is a staff writer and the resident Game of Thrones expert at the Daily Dot. She covers entertainment, geek culture, and pop culture and has brought her knowledge to conventions like Con of Thrones. She is based in New Jersey.