I have watched the Ray Rice circus from afar. I have read the columns, absorbed the outrage, listened to the nonsense that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has spewed forth about what the league knew and what it didn’t about the video showing the Baltimore Ravens running back punching out his then-fiancee.
I have a different perspective. And, truth be told, it’s a highly conflicted one. I’ve been a sports writer for more than 30 years, and am a big fan of boxing, mixed-martial arts, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, some of the most violent of all sports.
I am also the victim of domestic violence.
Few people know this, and I am not comfortable admitting it. No woman ever is. It’s ugly and life-changing. It’s embarrassing and hurtful as well as isolating. It makes you look and sound weak, even if you aren’t.
And it isn’t solved by a talking head on TV or a Twitter post or some Facebook rhetoric.
My question to everyone is: How do we deal with our own hypocrisy? The NFL and its fans love the big hits, the blood, the battle. No league uses more war terms than football. It makes for great television. And yet, we are shocked when NFL players bring their brutality to their families.
Football isn’t the only violent sport. In hockey, fans thirst for fights. Even though they have been reduced exponentially since I started covering the league in 1990, nothing lifts NHL fans out of the seats more like a fight.
And then there’s boxing. A quote from Mike Tyson has always stayed with me. “I feel like sometimes I was not meant for this society,” said Tyson. “When you see me smash somebody’s skull, you enjoy it.”
Yes, the fans do. And the NFL requires brutality. It is part of the job description. Your goal? Destroy your opponent. Look back no further than the New Orleans Saints and the coaching staff’s edict about putting bounties on opposing players.
The NFL promotes violence, and we embrace it, making it the most successful and financially profitable league in the world. The NFL forgave Michael Vick for torturing and electrocuting animals while running a dog-fighting ring. Short of Aaron Hernandez, you could argue, the NFL forgives pretty much anything over time.
Still it is bad press when a player attacks his fiancee/now wife. Everyone sits in judgment, not only of Ray Rice but also of his wife, Janay. I used to think domestic abuse would never happen to me, and then it did. Most of my friends retreated because they didn’t know what to do. It is so much easier to sit in judgment or walk away than to do anything. I am not mad at people who didn’t help me. I needed to help myself and with the aid of therapy, I did. Janay Rice needs to help herself. She also has a young daughter who doesn’t deserve to be exposed to a violent home.
The elevator footage of Ray Rice knocking out Janay was sickening. Then she defended him, and everyone scratched their heads and wanted to call Dr. Phil.
I defended the person who beat me, too. It took me a long time to come out of that tunnel of darkness. At the time, I was lost. That is why I will never have anything but compassion and kindness for these women.
The fans want a sports world full of violence, they want players smashing each other, making each other bleed. They want a sports war on the field.
At what cost? Spare me the outrage about how it’s shocking that these athletes can take their rage to another arena outside the one that pays them.
The real question is: Why wouldn’t they? When it comes to money and product, the blood thirsty always get what they want. And since you reap what you sow, we are their partners in crime.