Ray Rice Saga: Media focus should not be on the NFL

Sep 23, 2014 by

Ray Rice Saga: Media focus should not be on the NFL

The Ray Rice legal case has brought the issue of domestic violence to the forefront in recent weeks.   Strangely, the brunt of the discussion has surrounded the NFL’s treatment of his penalty, or lack thereof. The original two game suspension and $500,000 fine might seem insufficient to many, but it should be noted that the legal system placed him in a pretrial intervention program for first time offenders which if completed successfully by Rice, would ensure he serve no time in jail or have a criminal record.   Whether or not his legal punishment is sufficient enough should be the real discussion here, but instead the morally outraged mainstream media has decided to pick a fight with the NFL and Ray Rice instead.

It’s interesting how this particular violent act by an NFL player is causing such an uproar considering the most recent history of players who have committed violent crimes of similar, or more serious in nature. Stating domestic violence is a serious issue is an understatement, but in comparison to the multi-murder homicide former New England tight-end Aaron Hernandez is currently accused of perpetrating, it’s difficult to understand why the Ray Rice incident has suddenly mobilized public sentiment so negatively towards the NFL. After all, this incident took place in the spring of this year and there was no backlash at that time. The facts of the case were made public and the hue and cry calling for Rice’s head was nowhere to be seen and yet a few weeks after TMZ publicly released the video tape procured from the Atlantic City Casino where the assault took place, Rice and the NFL (namely commissioner Roger Goodell) are suddenly public enemy one and two. It seems the facts of the case did not resonate until a video was released showing Rice administering a haymaker to his charging wife in the elevator.

It’s interesting how this case has caused such a stir, considering the recent criminal history of NFL players. Over 700 NFLers have been arrested since 2000, 12% of which involve domestic violence and the facts of many of those cases are measurably more disturbing than the Rice incident. Domestic violence involving NFL players isn’t a new phenomenon, nor is the public release of information regarding illegal acts. The only thing unique about the Ray Rice story is that his incident was captured on film and leaked to the media by TMZ. Perhaps the public reaction is a spillover response to being inundated with graphic imagery of journalists being beheaded in distant far off lands over wars very few North Americans understand or care to. Or maybe this is merely the flavour of the day where a group of pedantic moralists want to assert what they perceive to be abhorrent behaviour. Whatever the reason, it is troubling to think that people require seeing a video displaying a criminal act in order to discuss the issues surrounding a particular social issue. It’s equally disturbing knowing that while members of the media pat their backs and pump their chests on every mainstream network about Rice’s wrongdoing, a man in Gainesville, Florida murders his 6 grandchildren and daughter before committing suicide and the media sloughs it off like Rice might do to a defensive lineman on any given Sunday. Another day in the life in America where tragic gun violence is ignored while CNN prefers to tout panel after panel during primetime about the NFL’s mishandling of a player who assaulted his then fiancé, now wife.

Domestic violence is obviously a serious issue and Rice should be punished based on the act itself and traditional punishment for someone of his criminal history, and not be influenced by a bunch of wannabe jocks and primetime hosts who think they know better than most. The strange moral stand that has motivated the mainstream media in this instance is laughable and borderline irresponsible. Rather than continuously trying to shame the NFL or Rice with its various types of virtual pillories, the focus should be on the issues surrounding domestic violence and ways to improve education, typical treatment options penal or otherwise. Far too much of the narrative is solely focused on punishment and what the NFL should have done to reprimand Rice. If there is an axe to grind here it should be with the state legal system not the NFL. The jurisprudence of the case should be the discussion, but instead the focus is on publicly flogging a celebrity and the almighty NFL.

The reality of the Rice/NFL scandal is that the issue isn’t even about domestic violence at all; the crime is merely being used as an instrument by the media to shame and castigate the NFL, Roger Goodell and Ray Rice. If this was an issue about domestic violence, the topic would have been breached more seriously many years ago or in the Rice instance, months ago. Either Americans (or Canadians) can’t read without imagery to fully understand what domestic assault looks like or they need the media to inform them what real punishment should resemble. Maybe we need footage of mass murders caused daily by gun violence in America to bring about real change in gun crime, but we all know that won’t change a damn thing. We don’t care about social issues that affect our communities, as a society we prefer to knock people off their pedestal when given the chance. We relish shaming people and applying lofty moral standards to others, especially to celebrities, rather than addressing the real issues at hand that face everyday people. The collective Schadenfreude being reinforced by the media is being masked by moral outrage. Anyone who needs to see the Rice video to realize domestic violence is a problem for many families across America, not just NFL players, than they need to stop staring at their Facebook page for one minute of their life and wake-up. Violent culture in America is the real issue here and it’s nuanced and relates to whole host of complicated issues which might include poverty, class, race, ethnicity and widespread gun ownership. Unfortunately, violence in America can only be addressed in the mainstream indirectly and superficially and only when a celebrity is involved or something extraordinarily tragic occurs (ie Sandy Hook Elementary shooting).

When the Ray Rice story disappears into the background in a few days or weeks, people across America will still have to face violence in their homes and communities. Many of the persons involved know the difference between right and wrong, but resort to violent acts when under duress for a host of reasons when they should instead be using non-violent methods instead.  Getting to the root of the causation of violent acts is what needs to be addressed and the legal system must be a strong conduit for protecting its citizens, not some shaming campaign perpetuated by the media.  Victims and perpetrators of violent crime aren’t equipped any further by the puritanical mainstream media who just want to tell the world how wrong domestic violence is without addressing the real issues surrounding the social issue. We get it CNN, domestic violence is wrong and it shouldn’t be tolerated, no sh%$ Erin Burnett! Maybe kids shouldn’t look up to a league that encourages men to grow freakishly big and strong in order to smash other equally sized brick walls in the first place? Is it much of a surprise that a violent sport like football, also has a number of violent citizens off the field?  The real misfortune in all of this is that the shaming of Rice and the NFL does nothing to change the landscape of violence in America. There’s a reason why the legal system didn’t put Rice in jail in the first place, it’s those factors that should draw your concern; not what the NFL didn’t do right in their punishment of Ray Rice.

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