It’s hard to argue that there is a sporting organization in existence with a reputation worse than that of the National Football League. With the recent emergence of evidence regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE (which is caused by a number of traumatic blows to the head), the number of parents who want their children to play football is lower than ever; just as it should be. There isn’t anything in the world that is worth making an x-ray of your brain look like a slice of Swiss cheese.
The sad thing is, what happens to players during the course of the game is one of last things the NFL has to worry about. September of 2015 was the first time an NFL player had not been arrested in over six years. Most of the crimes match up with the trends you see in the general public. The most common arrests among both NFL players and the general public are DUI. However, since the year 2000, 83 NFL players have been arrested on domestic violence charges. That comes out to an arrest rate of an astonishing 55.4 percent. This means that 48 percent of arrests for violent crimes committed by NFL players result from domestic violence, compared to the national average of just 21 percent.
The NFL is notoriously bad at properly disciplining its players. Evidence of this became clear when Baltimore Raven’s star running back Ray Rice was suspended just two games for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. Rice and his then-fiancé Janay Palmer were arrested after the two got into an “altercation” in Atlantic City. A few days after the arrest, footage emerged of Rice dragging the limp body of his fiancé out of an elevator. While this may seem like a rather condemning piece of evidence, according to the NFL, it only warrants a two-game suspension. There are 16 games in the regular season. Rice would be back to scoring touchdowns in no time.
One would think the Raven’s organization would be quick to take action and cut ties with someone who represented them so poorly, that was far from the case. Throughout the offseason, both head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome defended their player and insisted he was still very much a part of their plans for the upcoming season.
It wasn’t until a few months later when a second part of the video emerged that the Ravens and the NFL began to reevaluate their decision. This portion of the footage showed Rice striking Palmer across the face in the elevator and leaving her unconscious on the floor. In a statement addressing the new footage, Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.” In this case, doing better meant changing the two-game suspension to a six-game one for first offense, and a lifetime ban for a second incident. A few days later, the footage of what took place in the elevator was put online for all to see. The Ravens were in a corner. Now that everyone could see the brutality of what Rice did, the franchise had no choice but to release him.
But why did it take so long for the correct decision to be made when it should have been made instantaneously? Did it really take complete video evidence to properly discipline someone who knocked his significant other out cold in public? The NFL has a built up an extensive list of problems in the past few years and they need to fix them soon. At the top of that list should be the leagues domestic violence. One player has already been arrested for striking his girlfriend in 2016 and if I had to guess I’d say he won’t be the last. By letting these types of incidences go unpunished the league is sending a message to the public that says they don’t care about what their players do off the field as long as the perform on Sundays. If this doesn’t change, the public may want to reevaluate what we call “America’s Game.”