Ray Rice: The Critics begin and we respond.

Taking even shorter to start then I expected, we have received the expected criticism on our last posting involving the NFL and Ray Rice. This criticism, though not a fair one, is at least an intelligent one. So let’s share it here, and then move on to other matters. 

SC writes: “So before we scream that the NFL should be taking a stronger hand with its employees, we may want to remember that as a society, we are not doing any better than they are.” Um, so they shouldn’t do anything until EVERYONE is making strides to reduce DV? Lack of action by a group absolves those who can make a direct difference of responsibility to act morally and ethically?

Our Response:

I fear, you are missing the point. First, the NFL did do something. It did more than most employers do. It suspended him, Most employers will do not do that nor will they start to do that. They will not do that even with their at-will employees, whom they can fire no reason at all.

Whether or not people are satisfied with the action is another matter. For some, they are angry that the NFL did not immediately terminate and exile Mr. Rice once he was accused of domestic violence. A position, completely untenable in its disregard for due process and the contractual rights and obligations between the NFL, NFLPA and Mr. Rice.

There are others who feel an immediate termination was necessary once the initial video outside the elevator was seen. A position not nearly as odious, but still not completely reasonable. A suspension until the matter was investigated by the NFL or resolved through the legal system would have been a reasonable response.

There are others (myself included) who feel that once Rice entered into the disposition agreement and made a public statement in which he admitted he was at fault, the Ravens would be justified in either cutting him or suspending him for the entire year. As a practical business matter, cutting him makes more sense. The NFL also would have been justified in suspending him for a year or indefinitely, as they finally did.

The point here is that some are outraged because they feel the NFL, for some reason, has failed society And it raises the question of how? If people are looking to the NFL for a morality play, then they are certainly looking in the wrong place. It is a business. A brutal business, but the entire capitalist system is a brutal one. “Profits first” has been an intrinsic American value far longer than equality and justice. And, when Rice became a problem to the business, they dealt with him brutally. Banishment!  To Mr. Rice I could only say, “You knew the deal when you signed it. Mess up, go home.”

Now, perhaps some will say that every employer should be doing something to deter domestic violence. But, once you start believing all employers have that obligation, you then will instill them with the power to intercede and dictate personal behaviors to their employees in various areas, just as they did in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And if you thought Hobby Lobby was bad, it will pale in comparison to what businesses will do then. Keep in mind, in a world where we fear how government is invading our privacy, we have freely surrendered a far greater amount of our privacy to private business interests.

So, whether you believe the NFL was right or wrong in its initial punishment of Mr. Rice, let’s not pretend that they were out of step with our world. People are not ready to go to courthouses to learn the names and employers of every person convicted of a DV crime or entered into a diversion program. And they won’t demand that person be fired from their job and their industry, especially if that person is their brother, son, husband, wife, mother or sister. And those people will also not be demanding greater public resources for families dealing with domestic violence.

Oh sure, turn off the NFL if you so choose. Protesting with your dollars is your right. But, when people are showing outrage just to be outraged, it solves nothing, loses focus and ignores bigger pictures on a matter that requires solid solutions. If people really want to make changes, I highly recommend you take a look at the successful Family Justice Center projects spearheaded by former San Diego Deputy City Attorney Casey Gwinn. See www.familyjusticecenter.org.