The Ray Rice Assault Case: Can A Man Be Separated From His Actions?

Posted on September 12, 2014

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Just like in the Steubenville rape case, a hometown leaps to the defense of their native son who has committed an egregious offense.

I don’t approve, but I do sort of understand where the NFL is coming from on the Ray Rice case. There’s a lot of money in professional sports, and if your athletes are in jail or suspended from playing, they’re not making you a whole lot of money. So if your player enters an elevator with his fiancée, then exits the elevator dragging her limp, unconscious body, well… something bad happened in there, but hey, we can’t really know the whole truth so… how about a two-game suspension?

Really, NFL? You suspend guys longer than that for smoking pot.

When TMZ published the video footage from inside the elevator, it showed Rice punching his fiancée to the floor. Oh, now we act surprised, as if something… anything… else might have happened in that elevator (never mind that the NFL had the footage since April; if they are to be believed, they apparently never watched it, because, you know, if you don’t actually see something, maybe it might not be real). So now, with the irrefutable images of that punch making the rounds, the NFL has suspended Rice indefinitely, and the blowback has started rolling in from his fanboys.

Matthew Stanmyre reports on the misguided support he’s getting from his hometown of New Rochelle, NY:

Joseph F. Fosina, President of the New Rochelle Youth Tackle Football League, says he wouldn’t hesitate to hold another “Ray Rice Day” this year. “Ray never forgot where he came from and we’re not going to forget him,” Fosina says. “What he did was a bad thing, but we have guys that have killed cops and killed children and haven’t gotten blasted in the media like Ray has. People who’ve done so much worse — rapists and murderers … don’t get crucified like this.”

Well, no, Mr. Fosina, non-famous, non-wealthy rapists and cop-killers and child-murderers don’t get crucified in the press all that much. You know what happens to them? They go to jail, and yeah, they lose their jobs. In fact, ordinary, non-football-star people lose their jobs all the time for behavior that has nothing to do with their actual job performance. For instance, Debra Harrell was fired from her measly McDonald’s jobs because the police got involved in her child-care issues. Here’s an ordinary woman who was fired because her boss found her too attractive. Here are a bunch of ordinary people fired for things they posted on Facebook. And Mr. Fosina is telling us that Mr. Rice is being treated too harshly because the NFL suspended him for a couple of games for punching his fiancee’s lights out??

This is all too reminiscent of the Steubenville rape case, where the town seemed to rally around the accused rapists, cover up the crime and obstruct justice, and ignore or even threaten the victim. Once the rapists were convicted, even CNN seemed to report more sympathetically on the awful impact of the case on the boys: their promising football careers ruined, their good grades, the horror of finding themselves on a sex offender database.

Whatever is at play here, it’s ugly and frightening. When random ditch-diggers commit rapes or assaults, we don’t seem to have any problem recognizing that this is a crime, and we don’t feel too bad when those guys lose their menial jobs and go to jail. But when a football player does the same thing, we gloss it over, we make excuses, we deny it or downplay it. We say it’s not that big a deal, maybe it was the woman’s fault. Maybe bitch deserved it. Hell, who cares? She needs to just shut up about it. Damn bitch ruined this promising young man’s career by making a stink over it. Oh, wait. Rice’s fiancée didn’t make a stink about it. Well, whatever. The NFL is so unfair! The media is making too much out of this little incident!

Ray Rice is not defined by the act of punching his fiancée, and the Steubenville boys are not defined by the act of violating their passed-out classmate. I accept that people are complex creatures; I’m sure all of these men can be very sweet and thoughtful and loving, and even good scholars. Their accomplishments are sources of pride to their hometown communities. But none of that erases their transgressions. A very nice, smart, talented man who rapes someone is a rapist. A very nice, smart, talented man who punches a woman in the face and knocks her out, is an abuser.  We can have regrets, we can have remorse, we can speak of moving forward, of being “better people,” of learning from our “mistakes” – but we cannot undo or wish away the things we have done.

Don’t blame victims for being assaulted. Don’t blame law enforcement or employers for taking action against the assailants. If you’re looking for someone to blame for your loss of hometown pride, blame the assailants for their actions.

 

The moving finger writes, and having writ,

Moves on; nor all thy piety nor wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,

Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.

-The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

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