In the turbulent aftermath of Ray Rice’s brutal punch at Atlantic City’s Revel casino I don’t know wether NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will still be drawing his pay of $35 or $40 million bucks a year by the time you read this. In the NFL as in politics, one PR disaster can hurt you, but a string of them is deadly. Given the culture of the NFL, sudden light being thrown into its darker corners will probably reveal much we didn’t realize.
None of that will initially bother the billionaires who own the teams and control the NFL. But in the long run, Goodell – and Ray Rice’s – fate will depend on whether America’s women are mad enough about off-the-field domestic violence to boycott the sponsors who bring in the big bucks. Sports Business Journal reported in 2012 a sharp increase in the number of NFL viewers who correctly identified such sponsors as Marriott, Gatorade, Ford, GM, Verizon and Bud Light. Tie that to press reports that 45% of the NFL viewers are women and you see the problem, especially these days when strong and sophisticated advocacy of women’s rights is a major factor. Try to imagine a President Hillary Clinton or President Kelly Ayotte hosting the Superbowl winners at the White House should guys like Ray Rice show up with bloody knuckles. The NFL and its sponsors, vendors, executives and players have a multi-billion dollar industry to look after so I think they’ll pay whatever it costs to get Goodell out the door.
Speaking as a former municipal judge who had to issue a good many domestic violence restraining orders while on the judicial bench, I’d have to say good riddance. It’s long past time the NFL realized the harm its “see no evil” practices does in the context of its primary mission of selling male violence to the masses. We all want our team to pound the other guys into the ground, but after the final whistle blows a few guys can’t find a reliable off switch to suppress the testosterone and the adrenaline your trainers and coaches spent weeks and months revving up.
As for the NFL and its culture, does anybody believe this is the first time they learned how their players behave? I don’t. What the NFL needs to do is spend serious money paying experts to educate its players in anger management.
Why did his sweetheart put up with it and marry him right after? You figure it out. Start with dividing $40 million bucks in half, and add your lawyer’s fees and whatever a future divorce judge might tack on as damages. Then give due weight to her undying love, to her hopes for her man, to her devastating disappointment at the tragedy of it all, and to her remembering the story about killing the goose who lays the golden eggs.
Do I sound cynical? Let me tell you the story of a battered woman who came before me two or three times as victim of her man’s drunken attacks. I could and did order him out of the house and to stay away for a period of ten days. Each time I urged her go to the Superior Court and make that order permanent. She never did. She had small children and needed his paycheck. When she came to me a third time, I urged her once again to seek a permanent restraining order. This time she promised to do it. I asked her if she was sure.
“You’re darn right I’m sure, Judge,” she said. “After his last time I started my own cleaning business. This year I made $50,000 and I don’t have to put up with his f’ng crap any more!” That’s the home truth of the domestic violence world.
Has Mrs. Rice truly forgiven her new husband? Can any woman forgive the violent man she loves? They can and they do. A cop whose judgment I respected called me one night to come to City Hall. He said he had an odd case and didn’t know what to do. I got dressed and went down. It was an Atlantic City taxi driver who had been cut on the face by his enraged wife, who was now tenderly checking his bandaged face. The argument started when he belted her and ended with her going after him with a razor blade. They had no kids; both made good money. But try as he might, the officer couldn’t persuade either to sign complaints or seek a restraining order. Neither could I and, truth be told, I think they really did love each other.
If it were my call, I’d suspend Rice for the year; reconsider letting him save his future after that year only on the condition both he and Mrs. Rice take and complete high-quality anger management counselling and have no further physical abuse.
© 2014 Joseph T. Wilkins