The NFL could change public
awareness of domestic violence
One of the most insightful observations being made about the NFL domestic-violence scandal is that a muscle-bound thug who beat up a stranger in front of a security camera earlier this year might still be behind bars. But local authorities in Atlantic City, N.J., considered a “diversion program” to be response enough when Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice knocked his then fiancée (now wife) unconscious and dragged her limp body out of an elevator like a deer carcass.
Also lamentable is the extent to which Ravens’ senior management’s first instinct was to minimize Rice’s responsibility for his actions, while trying to deflect blame onto the woman. Though rallying around a teammate may be instinctive, a trendsetting community institution has an obvious and overriding duty to set an example by not instantly lurching into tired, chauvinistic clichés.
Newsworthy as all this is, it would hardly warrant comment in a West Coast community publication were it not for the fact that similar behaviors and attitudes are pervasive. The surprise isn’t that Rice initially avoided serious consequences for his behavior, but that he eventually did.
As a species, we for some warped reason continue to treat domestic violence as a paler shade of crime. Beating up a loved one too often results not in vigorous prosecution, but at most, going though the motions of anger management class, with no meaningful punishment or enduring lessons. Though it is safe to say Clatsop County’s prosecutor takes these matters seriously, one does not have to look far beyond our county lines to find jurisdictions where a night in jail is about the maximum a spouse-beater can expect after perpetrating a violent attack.
Some of this has to do with the phenomenon observed in the Rice case, in which his victim vocally wishes the whole matter had remained forgotten. The psychology and economics of such behavior are beyond the scope of this editorial. Society has little hope of developing better tactics against domestic violence if we defer to the wishes of victims who remain under the control of their assailants.
Unlike horrifying mass shootings that are decried but then all too soon forgotten in the face of National Rifle Association dissembling, the NFL has a compelling monetary incentive to be perceived as sensitive to this issue. As prime role models for young men, NFL teams and players have a legitimate potential to shift public consciousness. It will be ironic indeed if an entertainment business premised on hard hitting on the playing field can lead efforts to keep violence out of families. But it is, just barely, conceivable.
In the meantime, the Rice incident should spark continuing conversations in homes and school classrooms around the nation. Beating and dominating weaker family members must become a matter of the deepest shame and strongest importance.