The NFL has come under fire recently for its handling (or lack of) of domestic violence charges against some of its players, namely Ray Rice. The media firestorm has consumed the organization, and many are all calling for the commissioner, Roger Goodell, to be fired. While there certainly is a solid case for such changes to take place, the media and public have misplaced their outrage. Many of us forget that the NFL is, at its core, a business. We should not be surprised by their lack of action in these cases, and frankly, they shouldn’t have been held to such expectations initially. The NFL’s status as an entertainment icon does not exempt it from its status as a business, and businesses generally do not dictate the private lives of their employees.
Granted, the NFL has failed to use its own power constructively in these criminal situations, but they are ultimately not the foremost disciplinarian in these cases. Businesses should not be expected to police the lives of their employees; though the NFL should be handling domestic violence charges against its players better (can they get any worse?), they cannot make up for the failings of law enforcement.
Take the case of Ray Rice, for example. While the bulk of media attention has been on the NFL’s active ignorance of the evidence, many have ignored law enforcement’s heinous treatment of Rice’s case. According to ABC, Rice was accepted into a “pretrial intervention program,” which allowed him to avoid jail time and charges on his criminal record, against the explicit advice of New Jersey law. It is absolutely ludicrous that the court let a clearly violent individual pass with absolutely no punishment whatsoever or any permanent record of the incident. This is the same state in which growing pot can get you a three year sentence and a $25,000 fine at minimum. While the NFL’s treatment of this case may have been awful, but the truly monstrous failure lies in the lap of our justice system.
Why has there been no outcry against our legal system? People are so quick to blame the NFL when they are at most only a secondary disciplinary power. Any action they take can only serve to protect or harm their image; the paramount power of punishment lies with the law, this is where the discussion should be happening. Why are we still instituting mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, when men who commit violent acts against their wives and children get to walk free? Why is the bulk of our law enforcement’s attention focused on stopping drugs when domestic violence is a far larger threat to our communities?
The public conversation on domestic violence is a necessary step in the right direction for our society. While the NFL has been making terrible decisions regarding their own players’ behavior recently, it is important to realize that the organization is only the backdrop for a much larger problem to tackle. Our justice system is the true culprit in this domestic violence issue, and it’s time we get the discussion started to shape a safer future for our country.
Collegian Columnist Sean Kennedy can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @seanskenn