In recent weeks, the NFL has received a lot of press, even in the UK, but not all of it is for the reasons the league would like.
Since September, the NFL has been put under the spotlight due to legal issues, beginning with the case of Baltimore Ravens’ player Ray Rice, who was investigated following allegations of domestic violence. Following these allegations, the NFL issued punishment, a 2-game suspension to begin the new season, but came under particularly bad press due to the view that this was not a harsh enough punishment. Immediately prior to the opening of the season, Commissioner Goodell announced a new policy towards domestic violence; a six week suspension for first-offenders and an indefinite suspension the next time.
Soon after this announcement, new evidence emerged in the Rice case; elevator footage clearly showing Rice punching his then fiancée, rendering her unconscious. The evidence available previously showed him dragging her out of the lift, but not how she came to be unconscious. In light of the new evidence, the commissioner announced Rice’s indefinite suspension, and Rice’s contract with the Raven’s was terminated, both effective immediately.
This is not the only domestic violence case that has seen the light recently, with multiple others deactivated (not a member of the match day squad) by their respective teams while they face charges. Two of the most notable others surround Carolina Panthers’ defensive lineman (one of the big guys) Greg Hardy, and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson placed on the commissioners exempt list. This list allows the inclusion of a 54th player on to the 53 player roster, but any player on the list must stay away from all team activities for the duration of their legal proceedings.
The Peterson case is not for domestic violence in terms of abusing a wife or girlfriend, but instead he is being brought up on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. No less a crime were it deliberate, the player claims he had no wish to hurt his child and says he regrets it. The 4 year old child was left with wounds to his upper legs following a disciplinary beating administered with a stick. Hardy is charged with assaulting his girlfriend.
Due to the public outrage with the initial punishment handed to Ray Rice and the fact that the commissioner supposedly never saw the elevator video, the League has brought in former FBI director Robert Mueller to investigate the NFL’s conduct with regards to what information the league was privy to and what it was not. Is this merely a desperate attempt to win back the trust of the public, or is there a genuine desire to improve the NFL behind this move? Only the outcome will tell.
At the risk of appearing to come to the defence of these people, we must ask; is it fair that they lose their jobs over accusations and maybes? Once all the evidence is available, if they are found guilty, as in the Rice case, then it is most definitely fair, but those who are yet to appear in court are unable to go on with their jobs, and could lose an entire year’s work over a mere accusation. Not to mention the effect on the fans, who pay vast sums of money to go and watch their favourite players, only for them to be inactive while they await trial.
Ultimately, however, perhaps the question is not should they be banned, but should the NFL be obliged to make that decision regardless of the legal outcome?