Last Friday, Ray Rice won the appeal of his indefinite suspension and has been reinstated into the National Football League. Rice, a former Baltimore Ravens running back, was suspended for assaulting his then fiancee, now wife, in an elevator on Valentine’s Day. After a video of the assault was leaked by TMZ, the NFL came under fire for mishandling the incident and continuing to let him play. With the current controversy surrounding the NFL, it would not only be an unwise decision for a team to sign Rice, it would be a reprehensible one.
The NFL has recently come out in support of the “No More” campaign, which attempts to raise awareness for domestic violence and sexual assault. Commercials featuring prominent football players have aired during games, giving the impression that the NFL has resolved to take a stand against such violence. However, this newfound PR campaign is in stark contrast with Rice’s reinstatement. If the NFL is truly committed to ending domestic violence and sexual assault, they should adopt a zero tolerance policy with their players and actually enforce it.
The official reason for Rice’s reinstatement was the NFL’s mishandling of his initial suspension. The commissioner’s misinterpretation of Rice’s private testimony was a key factor in the success of his appeal. Though it seems the situation is out of the hands of the NFL, responsibility now lies with the individual teams. Multiple teams have already expressed interest in signing Rice, although these allegations have yet to be confirmed.
Regardless of whether he is suspended or not, the intent of the suspension should be upheld. In order to enact real change, each team must embrace the policy of the organization as a whole. If the NFL is serious about rebranding and standing up against domestic violence and sexual assault, Rice and players in similar situations should not have the honor of playing professional football.
This article was published in print on Dec. 3. Due to technical difficulties, it was published online on Dec. 5.