Actions without consequences: the inconsistency of NFL treatment to domestic violence

Kathryn Rudd, Staff Writer

Who knew TMZ would actually be capable of putting something useful out into the public? Despite the exploitation of the assault by former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice to wife, then-fiance Janay Palmer in 2014, the video released of Rice hitting Palmer in a Las Vegas elevator gave an up-close look on how the NFL reacts to domestic violence.


Rice may never go back on the field again, but similar charges against multiple NFL players may not result in the same consequence. Tony McDaniel of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kevin Williams of the New Orleans Saints, Brandon Marshall of the New York Jets, Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys, Erik Walden of the Indianapolis Colts and most recently, Greg Hardy, who also played for the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys, all have been arrested or accused of domestic violence.


Hardy’s most recent charge of domestic assault against his wife has not only been dropped, but expunged from his record, according to the USA Today Database that has tracked over 800 player arrests since 2000.


The NFL Players Association failed to recognize the accusation and attempted to deflect the attention in a statement regarding Hardy’s comments to the media, saying “We prefer that all the networks and media pay more attention to players who have been recognized for their good deeds.”


These cases, some dating back nearly a decade, reflect the NFL’s inconsistent approach to dealing with domestic violence. The league has not only had to balance justice, fairness and an obligation to the players and the public, but it has failed to keep players and the league accountable for what happens off the field.


Most notable is Marshall, who has had three arrests against him for domestic violence. He simply served a three-game suspension in 2008 due to personal conduct violation, and was never convicted of any of the crimes. Now, he is a changed man. He has been to treatment and is now a public advocate against domestic violence.


It is hard to decide what is fair without being hypocritical.  People deserve second chances if they have proved that they are willing to make a change. However, to get a second chance to make that much money and be under the spotlight that the NFL provides does not seem to match up with the public who make the same mistakes and have their careers ruined. 


“A lot more can be done by the league,” senior offensive lineman and Rice University commit Uzoma Osuji said. “It’s a tough spot because you want to give a clear stand against domestic violence but you also can’t punish a guy forever and at some point you have to give a second chance.”


“The suspensions that happen after a domestic violence issue are usually pretty deserving, however with players appealing the rulings of the NFL they can often get it cut way short like Greg Hardy did. I feel like the NFL should make the suspensions longer so that after a legal appeal it is still deserving of the punishment.”


Walden, a linebacker for the Colts was arrested for an alleged physical altercation that sent his his then girlfriend Erica Palmer to the hospital. Police stated they had enough evidence to hold him under felony charges, but the charges were later dropped, and Walden was not suspended by the league.


“Anytime you break the law you usually have to pay the price,” Coppell head baseball coach Kendall Clark said. “To me, the suspension along with whatever the law should be doing is what should be done. But these athletes are also bringing a check in. Whenever the checks won’t roll in, then they will start paying attention, until then they aren’t going to do anything.”


There should not be this gray area that NFL and the justice system has created. The rest of the world does not work like this. However, these athletes have a brand that they have acquired, and with this brand comes a paycheck.


The NFL raked in an estimated $7.3 billion in the 2015 season. Each of the 32 teams received almost $226.4 million, most of which comes from television deals and endorsements. Endorsements starring your favorite players.


“It’s not like speeding or having a reflector light broken,” Clark said. “They know what they’re doing, and they need to find them and follow through with suspension and let the law take care of it. There is a lot of probation, but that doesn’t really get your attention. They sort of [get] away with it, so it doesn’t really make much of an impression.”


Many children, even adults see these players as icons. To see an enormous leniency in dealing with these cases, it does nothing but put it into to an onlooker’s mind that if you have massive check signed out to your name and can run faster than anyone else on the field, you could get away with it too.


“From a young age it should be engrained in boys’ minds that you should never hit anyone,” Coppell High School senior varsity pitcher and Texas Christian University (TCU) commit Charles King said. “It’s tough with major athletes because they’re icons, they bring lots of money into organizations. So you never want to see someone that’s bringing you money hurting your brand.


“However, under those circumstances, it’s [still] never OK to hurt anybody. No matter what his position is, if they were responsible action needs to be taken.”


Like King said, it should not matter how high up his position is, the athlete should be held accountable the same way. Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel is now a free agent after being released from the team after multiple misdemeanor charges and a recent domestic violence charge.


Manziel was the boy that fans had their eyes on, winning the 2012 Heisman Trophy and named 2012 First-Team All American by CBS Sports, ESPN, Associated Press and more. But after being drafted, his potential for the spotlight started to fade and after being dropped by the Browns, he has been a free agent since.


Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s vice president of social responsibility, told last October, “We are working hard to bring attention to the positive role models many other players represent and also to continue our education with all members of the NFL family.”


The same charges against Hardy and Bryant however have not stopped them from furthering their careers. These players have more money to their name, and because the Cowboys and the Jets know they can bring in a paycheck, you will continue to see them suit up on Sundays.


”The NFL is a privilege to be [apart of], it’s not a right. So if you do something like [domestic violence] and you’re found guilty for it, you should lose the privilege to play in the NFL in my opinion,” said Devin Lemons, Coppell defensive line coach and former Washington Redskins player. “I don’t see how it’s fair for a person to have that type of record, found guilty, and still have the privilege to have that kind of job, be in that spotlight and make that kind of money. I just think it’s unfair.”


Sometimes it seems the more prominent and productive players have a bigger rug – allowing more things to be swept away from the public’s sight.   Although it may be difficult to draw the line, you cannot deny the need for someone to take responsibility for all these incidents, and ensure everyone is playing with the same accountability.