Double Jeopardy: How Ray Rice Was Punished For The Same Crime Twice
Seemingly everyone and their brother (and sister, mother, father, dog, cat and general acquaintance) has commented on the topic: that’s not the approach I’d like to take.
I believe everyone, including the Rices, understand what happened is wrong. We are beyond this point. The focus has now shifted to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s investigation, and how they could miss a vital piece of information, such as the footage recently leaked from inside the elevator.
My question is this: why does the video matter? And what does it change?
Before I ruffle any feathers, I understand seeing the crime with your own two eyes lends credibility, but was there any doubt about what had transpired that night, according to the various sources and information presented to the commissioner previously?
Ray Rice and his wife Janay had admitted to hitting each other. We saw the view from outside the elevator, where she was unconscious. What did all of us think happened? Was there ever a doubt that she was hit and knocked out? And how that might have occurred?
The entire situation is a PR nightmare, especially for Goodell, who has always come under fire for being too tough, but is now being criticized for being too soft. The original suspension given to Ray Rice was for 2 games of the regular season. Many (myself included) felt a 2 game suspension was too lenient.
The public outcry forced the NFL to quickly institute domestic violence policies as part of their Personal Conduct Policy. Within the new guidelines, a first-time offender would receive a 6 game suspension, with a second-time offense banning the player from the league entirely.
This is where things get tricky: the policy went into effect after Rice’s penalty was announced, and did not retroactively punish the former Raven. However, when the video surfaced, within hours Baltimore terminated Rice’s contract and Goodell suspended the player indefinitely.
Think about this for a second: Rice’s punishment was announced at the end of July, before the beginning of the Raven’s preseason and before any type of policy for domestic violence was in place. He continued to practice and play throughout the preseason, knowing he was going to be fined $58,823 and miss 2 games.
Fast forward to September 8th, and Rice is no longer a part of the league. The Ravens terminated his contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. Nike yanked a sponsorship deal, and EA Sports is removing him from their latest edition of John Madden Football.
But wasn’t Rice’s suspension already set? Essentially, Ray Rice is being punished twice for the same crime. In the legal system, they call this “Double Jeopardy,” where someone cannot be tried twice for a crime in which they have already been proven innocent or guilty.
The NFL Players Union has been surprisingly mum on the Rice situation. Yet, at the same time as this situation is going on, the union pooled all 32 players to review changes to the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy. While the union decided to not vote on a new policy last night, a general consensus agrees the league will rescind some of the suspensions currently in place when a new deal is reached. This would retroactively change Wes Welker‘s 4 game suspension or Josh Gordon‘s year-long banishment.
So what changed with Ray Rice?
The NFL gave Rice 2 games, instituted a new domestic violence policy and did not seek to retroactively punish him further. Yet, they are seeking to retroactively change suspensions for violating the Substance Abuse Policy.
If the league took the same approach with domestic violence, Rice should be suspended for 6 games. So why is Rice’s punishment beyond that of a first-time offender in the newly outlined policy? Why does the commissioner suddenly change his mind from 2 games to forever? Is Rice a scapegoat? Is this a PR cover-up on behalf of Goodell, the Ravens and/or the NFL?
And what about Ray McDonald, a 49er facing a felony domestic violence charge, or Caronlina Panther Greg Hardy, who was already found guilty of threatening to kill and assaulting his former girlfriend? Both are still playing.
Something doesn’t feel right.
The conspiracy theorists are out in droves, believing someone is hiding information or lying to the public. The commissioner vehemently denies seeing the video prior to this week. The New Jersey State Police, with whom the NFL requested all evidence pertaining to the situation, have gone on record backing up Goodell, stating it would have been “illegal” to hand over the video to the league, yet TMZ obtained and leaked the video without batting an eyelash. (Update: The Associated Press is reporting someone in the league office received the video from law enforcement.)
Regardless of who is at fault or who is to blame, it’s unlikely we’ll never know the real truth as to the investigation and how both the court system and the commissioner’s office arrived at and determined their sanctions.
However, this process is unfair to both Ray and Janay. The Rices felt this situation was behind them. Ray was ready to do the time, for the crime. Then his punishment was seemingly changed within hours, as the court of public opinion sentenced him further, opening wounds that may have healed, or were at least starting to.
I’m no Ravens fan, I’m no Ray Rice fan, and I’m no fan of what transpired in the Atlantic City casino elevator. While the NFL has to send a message to both their players and their fans, I believe there should be a fair process in doing so.