By SAMANTHA DESMOND
After several months of media frenzy, and plenty of Commissioner Roger Goodell running around with his tail between his legs, the NFL announced Wednesday that the 32 league owners unanimously voted in a new personal conduct policy.
It only took them three months. That is, three months after the scandal blew up in their faces. It’s been nearly ten months since Rice struck his then-fiancé in a casino elevator on Feb. 15. The incident only played out in the media once security footage was released in September.
What is undoubtedly an effort to save face is now being lauded as a proactive step in the right direction by a league that, let’s face it, cares more about saving face than the personal welfare of players or their families. Case and point – the league knew about Rice’s indiscretion last February, but only publicly crucified him once the video evidence spread like wildfire. And he wouldn’t be the only one.
Cue Adrian Peterson.
A second high-profile running back being indicted on charges of physical abuse put a target on Goodell’s back in September. Only this time, one of his players stood accused of brutally beating a young child with a switch. The NFL swore up and down that swift action was being taken, and Peterson has not suited up for the Vikings since early September.
Although Rice and Peterson were the two marquee cases that plagued Goodell and the NFL in September, they were not the only instances of NFL players committing crimes of physical abuse.
Jonathan Dwye, running back for the Arizona Cardinals, and Greg Hardy, defensive end with the Carolina Panthers, were both publicly called out on charges of domestic violence in the wake of Rice and Peterson. Both are currently entrenched in legal proceedings and face uncertain futures with their respective organizations – although those futures may become a bit clearer with the NFL’s new policy.
According to Goodell, the “comprehensive” and “tough” policy upholds the fact that playing in the NFL is “a privilege…not a right.” Under the new guidelines, violations involving assault, sexual assault, battery, domestic violence, child abuse and other forms of family violence will warrant a six-game suspension without pay, but consideration will be given to mitigating or aggravating circumstances.
One could easily argue that Peterson’s case would include the aforementioned aggravating circumstances, but it is unlikely that the league will keep another premier player from playing ball come 2015.
As for Rice, he has already been deemed free to sign for any team, with none showing any interest of signing the disgraced running back.
Goodell previously banished Rice from the league, and has since expressed his disdain for the former Baltimore star’s successful appeal. And it’s not too difficult to figure out why.
To put it simply, Ray Rice fixed the public eye on Goodell’s severe and debilitating ineptitude, and now further draws attention to his hypocrisy. Not only did Goodell “half-ass” the Rice case, he has repeatedly failed to take full responsibility of his actions from the start. Instead of admitting that the NFL was lax with Rice from the onset, Goodell has consistently blamed Rice, his now-wife, the Ravens organization and the casino security for any inconsistencies, cover-ups or confusion for the duration of the investigation.
Do not be duped by the latest “landmark” decision by the NFL, loyal fans. Although I, as a female sports fan, stand with all who advocate for swift and positive change regarding violence against women and children, I can’t help but feel that the new policy is any more than insurance for Goodell in the wake of increased scrutiny and scandal. If the owners want to restore the NFL’s reputation and truly become advocates against excessive violence, they should consider finding a commissioner who can stand the heat of the spotlight, keeping his story straight in the process.
Few love the game as much as I do, but it’s high time that people start paying attention to the man behind the curtain.