UPDATE: The Ravens cut Ray Rice this afternoon. Your move 49ers?
I have 2 blogs teed up on education policy, but I'll divert here to talk about the story of the day.
TMZ obtained footage of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice actually hitting his fiancee (before we only had video of the aftermath). Since the footage leaked, the twittersphere has been howling with outrage and demanding that NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell tack on additional penalties (Rice is currently serving a 2 game suspension).
Should the Ravens cut Rice? Yes. Immediately. Should Goddell add to his penalty if it is legal to do so under the collective bargaining agreement? (In the sidebar in this story, ESPN legal analyst Roger Cossack indicates he can't). Absolutely.
But, as with people blaming colleges for how they handle sexual assaults, all of this outrage is to a degree misdirected.
What about the police and prosecutor who are either incompetent, and didn't see this video, or, alternatively, saw it and decided to let Rice into a pretrial diversion program instead of standing trial or facing some more severe sanction?
Make no mistake about it, I'm not absolving Goddell for not meting out a harsher punishment (nor am I absolving colleges for their utterly clueless and sometimes reprehensible mishandling of sexual assaults).
What I am saying is that it's hard for employers/colleges to satisfy the virtual public mob when we have a judicial system that apparently doesn't recognize the seriousness of crimes against women. Employers/colleges can't stand in for the justice system.
They can only go so far in penalizing employees/students, and we have to consider how far we want them to go in a case in which someone hasn't been charged and/or convicted of a crime.
Thus, our anger should be directed first and foremost at the prosecutor who decided that Rice should enter the pretrial diversion program. Would Rice have only received a 2 game suspension if he had pled guilty or stood trial? I doubt it.
But lest you think I'm a softy who wants to defend his favorite sport (for the record baseball, not football, is my favorite sport), the NFL deserves opprobrium for its handling of domestic violence as well.
But not in the case of Rice. At least not today.
Today, I'm far more offended by the fact that 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald PLAYED yesterday and recorded three tackles. Why? Well, last week, just days after the NFL announced new, harsher penalties against domestic violence, McDonald was arrested for felony domestic assault for hitting his pregnant fiancee.
Now some, like 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh, will argue that McDonald deserves his day in Court, and that unlike Rice, his case hasn't been adjudicated. But ask yourself this question: if any of us got arrested for the crime with which McDonald is charged wouldn't we at least be suspended by our employers pending a resolution?
Again, McDonald was on an NFL field yesterday in a nationally televised game. Ray Rice was not.
Frankly, I think the problem is more spineless owners than the commissioner. Goodell has to abide by the collective bargaining agreement, he must allow for due process, and he already admitted that he screwed up the Rice situation.
But any NFL owner, at any point, can say I don't want that guy playing for my team today, or ever again (the benefit of non-guaranteed contracts). That's where outrage belongs. The 49ers owner should have said Ray McDonald won't put on a 49ers jersey again until there is a legal resolution to this matter and if he is convicted, he'll never play for us again. Period.
But owners don't like to make such decisions when impact players are involved, because they don't want to deal with angry fans after their teams lose games. It's easier to take the immoral way out and leave the disciplining to the commissioner.
To review, Ray Rice should be cut, and no NFL team should sign him for at least the rest of the year, and Ray McDonald shouldn't see the field until his case is adjudicated. .
I also think that we ought to ponder the contrast between today's outrage and yesterday's non-existant response. What does it say about our society? Is the difference the video? Are we such a social media driven control now that if we haven't seen video of something it doesn't count? Is the difference that most people hadn't heard of Ray McDonald and what he did? Is it that we didn't want to sully our weekly escape from reality?