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Is football bigger than domestic violence?

Running back Ray Rice was released by the Baltimore Ravens Monday afternoon after a video was released of Rice striking his then-fiancé, now wife, in the face.

Rice had already been dealt a two game suspension violating NFL’s conduct policy. He reached a plea deal on May 20 to avoid jail time. He was required to take anger management counseling instead.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is being highly scrutinized for being too lenient after the two game suspension, alleging the extended video showing Rice striking his fiancé was never made available prior to Monday. After the video circulated the Internet Monday, Rice was suspended indefinitely.

Rice’s situation highlights how the public place professional athletes on a pedestal, often leaving their personal lives behind closed doors. Highlighting the Rice situation is the ultimate question: Is football bigger than domestic violence?

Many believe that the indefinite suspension and termination of Rice’s contract was too harsh, purporting that the past is the past, and people should forgive him and let it go.

Others, however, are suggesting Rice’s behavior will revolutionize how professional sports league will look at disciplinary action.

Rice’s actions show that professional athletes are held to a high standard, even if they don’t want to be.  They represent themselves, their families, their teammates, the organization that they play for and the league. The Baltimore Ravens decided that Rice could no longer represent their team after the video became public.

Not only should professional athletes be held to a higher standard of conduct on their own, but it is oftentimes in the conduct policy of the respective league they play for.

The NFL Personal Conduct policy states that players who engage in criminal activity will be subject to discipline by the NFL and that the standards for those who are employees of the NFL are held to high standards. The policy talks about the specifics of off the field conduct issues describing it by: “Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime.”

The NFL Conduct policy goes on to describe crimes that are specific to Rice’s situation by saying: “Criminal offenses including, but not limited to, those involving: the use or threat of violence [and] domestic violence.”

Chris Power, a sophomore at ORU has seen the affect domestic violence can have on a family through experience. His mother was abused by his father for about three years before she found the courage to leave.

“Growing up I had really bad anger issues, and I could justify it by saying, ‘Well Daddy does it, so why is it so bad?’” said Power.  “I think the effects [of domestic violence] last for a person’s life. People have to learn how to cope and how to deal with them effectively before it’s too late and before they find themselves too deep in their habits.”

Rice fell off the pedestal that he was so highly elevated on, and now he has to face consequences from the NFL and from his family. Rice and his wife Janay Palmer have a 2-year-old daughter named Rayven. When she is older she will most likely hear from someone in school that that her dad knocked her mom out. Rice might never be able to face his daughter and tell her that he assaulted her mother, and that will punish him more than a suspension ever could. He must realize that not only did his decision effect himself and his wife, but his daughter.

So where do we draw the line for our professional athletes? Do we hold them accountable for their actions outside of their sport or do we turn a blind eye to what they do off the field because they make our favorite teams better?

Many of us would like to say that we would be outraged if a player on our favorite team took part in inappropriate conduct off the field, but would we really be outraged?

Rice is now a free agent. A question to ask ourselves is will another team bring Rice back and put him back on the pedestal, or will he be forced to live the same life as other men in our society who have committed the same offenses?

So, is football bigger than domestic violence? No, under no circumstance is football bigger than domestic violence. We should not place him back on the pedestal he was on ever again. If the answer is somehow yes, then there are more issues in our society than just Ray Rice.

Photo is a screen shot of the TMZ-released video of Rice punching his fiancé. 

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