The story of Ray Rice coldcocking then-fiancée Janay Rice and a possible NFL cover-up of the act is not going away. The National Organization of Women has called for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to step down, this as former FBI director Robert Mueller is appointed to lead an investigation into what the NFL knew and when it knew it.
There has been much written about the subject and much of that misguided. People think with their hearts, their loins and their wallets. They see what they want to see. But in this case – in most cases – we need to think with our minds. Here are the incontrovertible facts, as I posted them on ESPN: Ray Rice assaulted the woman who became his wife, the former Janay Palmer, and Goodell exercised abysmal leadership in responding to that act. Both men should be gone from the NFL – permanently.
It does not matter if what happens between a husband and wife is private. (The assault took place in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino, a public place.) It doesn’t matter that the Atlantic City district attorney chose not to prosecute, although I’m sure that is being investigated, too. And most important, it really doesn’t matter if Mrs. Rice confronted her husband on the elevator or why she dated, married and stayed with him. Nor is it in anyway material that she is pleading for privacy as her world unravels, thanks to her husband.
All that matters here is that Rice assaulted his future wife, and the league chose to slap him on the wrist with a two-game suspension at first while possibly sweeping under the rug any knowledge of the video capturing the act.
This hits home for me, because my forthcoming novel “In This Place You Hold Me” – the second book in my series “The Games Men Play” – deals with domestic violence in the NFL, although the victim is a gay quarterback caught in an abusive relationship with another star quarterback. And because Ray Rice grew up not far from where I live. We in Westchester County, N.Y. followed his career at New Rochelle High School and Rutgers University. He was special, a guy who made it all the way to the NFL. Now this.
I thought you’d like to hear from someone who also has a particular interest in this – CarLa Horton, executive director of Pleasantville, N.Y.-based Hope’s Door, which seeks to help those ensnared by domestic violence. In an open letter to the editor, she writes:
"Hope’s Door appreciates the public outcry after viewing the hotel elevator surveillance video which forced the Baltimore Ravens to release Ray Rice, a New Rochelle native, and the NFL to indefinitely suspend him. Clearly, more should have been done sooner. There must be zero tolerance of intimate partner abuse."
In addition, many media outlets, including social media, broadcast and print, seem to question why Janay Rice would stay with him given how he treated her. As executive director of Hope’s Door, an organization that has worked with thousands of domestic violence victims over the years, I can’t tell you specifically why she or any other victim stays with a violent partner, as there are as many reasons as there are victims. However, in our support groups, we hear women state that they stayed because they wanted a father for their children; the relationship they had in the beginning; or to believe his apologies and promises to never do it again. Others stayed or returned after leaving, because they faced enormous financial barriers or the very real threat of escalating violence. In fact, 75 percent of domestic violence homicide victims are murdered after leaving or announcing a serious intention to do so.
The NFL should implement and strictly enforce a zero tolerance intimate partner abuse conduct policy. The public must do their part not to just look the other way when someone they like or admire is abusive. We must continue to hold businesses, celebrities, friends and family members accountable. Together we can end domestic violence.
For more information on domestic violence or the warning signs, visit HopesDoorNY.org or call our hotline 888-438-8700 for 24/7 help.