Probably the most talked about opening season play didn’t happen on the gridiron.
My family has been buzzing about the Giant’s game tonight, but across the country football fans aren’t taking about an opening kick off, but about an ending– namely the Ravens terminating Ray Rice after video of his brutal attack of his then fiancée became public. Sports commentators (who aren’t generally a fragile or easily rattled types) saw the video today and are using words like: brutal, horrendous, disturbing and gruesome. Kyle Flood, football coach at Rice’s alma mater, Rutgers University, said, “”There is nothing that can justify what I saw on that video.”
While the NFL was late to the game in taking this incident seriously, they’re stepping up. They’re also accurately sighting down the field to the true cause of the attack as well as the solution.:
- The cause? It’s not about couples counseling, or mediation, or consideration of whatever actions by Rice’s fiancée may have preceded the attack; it’s about Rice’s conscious decision, the choice he made, to hammer his fist into her face.
- The solution? Firm policies connecting off field behaviors to the Code of Conduct and the League’s image and credibility. And clear consequences for violating the ethical code.
I’m still left with questions:
- Before making the original 2 game suspension video, the NFL said it had seen footage from inside the elevator, but today said this was new video. It’s a big jump from a ‘one time incident’ to a ‘brutal attack’. I know the NFL has met with advocates and seriously listened and learned about relationship and sexual abuse. But could they have viewed a brutal assault just weeks ago and had such a different reaction… or was this new video footage so different from what they’d watched before?
- Players and coaches are stepping up as role models- talking about character on and off the field. How can we utilize their words and examples to inspire and create change? Let’s make this a priority.
- I wonder how many domestic violence victims are watching as a complicated relationship plays out in the public? How many think about Janay, about how her life and her love have become water cooler conversation across the country. How many are wondering what it’s like for her tonight as Rice’s career and success, probably something he’s dreamed about since he was a kid, have changed irreversibly. How many don’t want to watch that video, because they know too well the feelings of fear, anger, confusion as the fist of someone you love barrels toward your face. How many keep their own suffering private, don’t tell anyone, and would do anything to avoid the exposure Janay is enduring now. I’ve chosen not to view the video. I truly believe that the NFL’s decision (albeit belated) to take a serious stance against relationship and sexual violence will have a ripple effect that will be a catalyst for change, not just in sports, but cutting across all aspects of our society. Yet as a victim advocate, I’m also acutely aware, that we’ve had to peer into one woman’s darkest hour, without her permission, to find this catalyst.