COLUMN: Assault should not be treated differently for athletes

 

This past week was an absolute nightmare for the National Football League and its commissioner Roger Goodell. It started Monday when a video surfaced of Ray Rice - who was indicted in March when he knocked out his wife Jenay, who was his fiancée at the time, in the elevator of a New Jersey hotel – physically knocking her out.

Rice was initially suspended for two games as a result of the incident, but after the second video came to light, the Baltimore Ravens terminated his contract and the league suspended him indefinitely.

Oh, and someone thought it was a good idea to have Jenay apologize for her “role in the incident” – weak.

I was fired up about this then – you can listen to me talk about it on the "Eastern Echo Sports Podcast":https://soundcloud.com/echo-sports-podcast/the-eastern-echo-sports-podcast-9814 - and as the week has progressed, I haven’t gotten any less angry – it shouldn’t matter that an athlete, professional or otherwise, is indicted for, convicted of, or alleged to have committed a violent crime – they should be taken off the field indefinitely until everything plays out – no exceptions.

Yes, we’ve all been taught that someone is innocent until they’re proven guilty – but when the initial proof came out right after the Rice incident, what happened was no different than the video – which as it turns out, was sent to the NFL in April – despite Goodell’s "initial denial":http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/24703147/goodell-on-rice-nfl-had-not-seen-video-of-what-happened-in-elevator (of sorts).

We know what it looks like when someone gets knocked out and dragged unconscious from an elevator – why should the punishment have been more lenient before we saw the video of Rice actually knocking her out.

Here’s my take: Rice wasn’t cut and indefinitely suspended for knocking Jenay out - he was because we saw proof of him knocking her out. Just putting this season under the spotlight for a second will show you that.

Another NFL star who was put in the public eye this week is Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson was "indicted Friday":http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/11514522/adrian-peterson-minnesota-vikings-indicted-child-case for reckless or negligent injury to a child – his four year old son – stemming from an incident in which Peterson’s son had injuries to his back, buttocks and genitals.

The Vikings deactivated Peterson Friday afternoon – the same day the initial allegations came to light.

Those are the two most famous players, but there are two more who aren’t as famous, but are in hot water of their own.

Ray McDonald is a defensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers. I say “is” because he is still playing, even though many indications, including this report from the "San Jose Mercury News":http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_26522981/court-date-49er-ray-mcdonald-postponed-police-investigation, are that he will be charged (eventually) with felony domestic assault against his pregnant girlfriend.

Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Greg Hardy – benched by the team just before its matchup against the Detroit Lions, Sunday – "was convicted in July":http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/07/15/5044910/panthers-greg-hardy-arrives-for.html#.VBXZxI5ZEVs of assaulting his former girlfriend and even attempting to kill her.

Yes, you read that right – he was convicted nearly two months ago and benched Sunday afternoon.

By now, you might be a little confused as to why these guys – who should have had the book thrown at them, in my opinion – got off so easily. There’s one reason: they’re professional athletes with lots of money who help the league make even more.

Rice – who appears to have received "special treatment":http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/09/13/report-suggests-prosecutor-gave-ray-rice-preferential-treatment/ from the prosecutor in his case – was assigned to a pre-trial intervention program for knocking out his then-fiancée.

The same prosecutor "reportedly went after a single mother":https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/12/double-standard-going-easy-ray-rice-prosecutor-torments-single-mom/ who was arrested during a traffic stop when the police officer saw her gun – which she has a permit for in Pennsylvania.

Even a little closer to home, there are issues where athletes make the news for legal matters and not much is said about them.

Eastern Michigan University football players Donald Scott, Quincy Jones and Jay Jones were arrested two weeks ago for allegedly assaulting a man – who it turns out is the cousin of the individual who was involved in the murder of former Eastern receiver Demarius Reed.

As of Saturday, both Joneses were no longer on the "roster":http://emueagles.com/roster.aspx?tab=roster2&path=football, but Scott still was. The legal matters regarding this case are still ongoing, and as is university policy, the athletic department won’t be issuing any further statements aside from the one "they issued":http://www.easternecho.com/article/2014/09/update-victim-of-alleged-assault-by-emu-football-players-was-cousin-of-suspect-in-demarius-reed-murd early in the process.

EMU vice president and director of athletics Heather Lyke did sit down with Jeremy Rosenberg of Eagle Totem and give "what I thought was a good explanation":http://eagletotem.net/blog/2014/09/09/crimes-misdemeanors/8110/ of her stance regarding the three football players, but it left me with more questions than answers.

At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter that these are all athletes who are in the public eye for assault – domestic or otherwise – the punishment for these folks should be severe. They are role models for young people who may wish to follow in their steps one day. What message does it send to them, to say nothing of the millions of victims of assault when the perpetrators are given next to no punishment for what they do?

*Social Media* Follow Al Willman on Twitter: "@AlWillmanEcho":http://twitter.com/alwillmanecho

_Al Willman can be heard every week on the Eastern Echo Sports Podcast. Search for the podcast on SoundCloud or iTunes – “Echo Sports Podcast”. You can also follow the podcast on Twitter: @ESportsPodcast and by liking “The Eastern Echo Sports Podcast” on Facebook._


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