American footballer Ray Rice is free to play the game again: his suspension was lifted on appeal, and he’s now free to sign with any NFL club that would have him.
Of course, if no contract offer is forthcoming, Ray Rice is free to sue each and every NFL team, and the league itself, accusing them all of collusion.
All Rice did to deserve punishment meted out by the league was he knocked his then-fiancé Janay out. He did so in an elevator in a casino in Atlantic City. That, by the way, showed not only his disregard for his then- fiancé’s dignity, and his perfectly frightful lack of respect for her. It showed also a huge degree of pure, simple and unadulterated stupidity. If Rice didn’t know the place was filled with surveillance cameras, he had to be a moron.
Not that his then-fiancé showed more intelligence: disregarding the incident, she went ahead and married her abuser.
Now, true, psychologists and psychiatrists would use a number of Latin words to describe women like this. Mostly, these words describe what the learned men view as less-than-normal behaviour on the sufferers’ part. Some cynics say that, come to think of it, women like this are of sound mind, after all: for each case of an attack against themselves, they manage to collect material rewards from their abusers.
Need an example? How about Rice’s former then-fiancé, now his legal spouse, lashing out at all and sundry for revealing the violent encounter in the Atlantic City casino, telling the media to stop poking their bloody dirty noses into things that were none of their bloody dirty business? The only thing missing would have been an explanation that she was playing a game with her future husband, testing how hard he can punch her, and what kind of hit she can withstand. And that he dragged her out of the elevator? Well, come on, we’re not anti-social, if we stayed in that elevator, others wouldn’t be able to use it.
Not really playing the game
Whatever the case may be, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell first hit Rice with a measly two-game suspension. Only after all kinds of activists started crying bloody murder did the commissioner increase the suspension, finally making it indefinite. Of course, some of these activists wouldn’t know a football if it hit them between the eyes, but they had one point right: abuse is abuse is abuse, and this one bordered on assault causing bodily harm.
Except: it’s not really sporting to be changing the rules during the game. And that’s exactly what the NFL poohbah has done.
Enter the intrepid players’ association, NFLPA. Not fair, it says, Rice couldn’t have expected anything more severe than two games, and here you are, extending the punishment till the cows come home.
Something in it, too.
Of course, all of this has created a scary precedent. Sports leagues all over the place are now monitoring their members’ behaviour as if they were all part of a network of Swiss finishing schools for refined young ladies and gentlemen.
For example, the NHL suspended Slava Voinov, a Los Angeles Kings’ defenceman, just because some emergency staff member at a local hospital was of the view that Mrs. Voinov’s injuries must have been caused by a violent attack by her husband.
For the record: both husband and wife denied the accusation.
Where, for crying out loud, is the presumption of innocence? It took the local DA several weeks to lay charges. The couple hasn’t appeared in court yet, only telling the world that the charge was ludicrous. Yet, Slava Voinov is all of a sudden persona non grata with the league, and the club. Of course, he still gets paid, and it took a strong effort on the part of the league and its players’ association (NHLPA) to figure out a way that would keep Voinov’s wages off his club’s books so his impact is no longer a salary cap hit.
Imagine if the court throws the entire matter out and Voinov is reinstated. Should he sue the league (and, by extension, his club) for dragging his name through mud? He could, and he might end up winning.
What’s the problem?
Here’s the main issue. It took years of media massaging, but we’ve become accustomed to viewing accomplished athletes as role models for all the fans, especially the young crowd.
Here’s what people can (and should) try to emulate: the ability to run fast with the football in Ray Rice’s case, or the ability to defend well in his zone and contribute to offence in Slava Voinov’s case.
To expect anything more shows lack of maturity on both the media’s and the fans’ part.
Professional athletes, especially those involved in American football or basketball, come from backgrounds that one would have frightful difficulty calling wholesome. The fact that they are now filthy rich, drive around in cars most of us wouldn’t be able to afford, wear all kinds of jewellery and clothing that has come from the most famous fashion designers does nothing to change this. Rather than educating themselves to become useful members of society, they spent their younger years honing their athletic skills. And using violence to achieve their goals. They just do not know any better.
Yet, here they are, standing on pedestals, shining role models one and all. And when they resort to the only kind of behaviour they know, that same media that’s put them on those pedestals is now dancing with joy pulling these fine specimen of athletic ability down: they’ve shown them.
It’s pure hypocrisy.
But then again, so is the entire sector of entertainment industry known as professional sports.
Granted: violence against others is a crime. That includes domestic violence.
But for professional sports leagues to act as police, investigating magistrates, judges, juries and executioners all at once is a major act of overstepping their mandates.
To break the accused individuals’ right to be considered innocent until proven guilty in an independent court equals a serious violation of those individuals’ constitutional rights.
And to make up rules as they go, now, that borders on insanity.
When and where will it end?