After the second Ray Rice video became public, there was a mad PR scramble by the NFL, the Ravens, the usual bandwagon jumping suspects in the news media who never stick their necks out for anything unless they feel its safe, and last but certainly not least, we had a word from the sponsors. Lots of sponsors. Lots of words.
The most recent and the most publicized was from Anheuser-Busch, those wonderful folks who bring us beer commercials that look and sound like they were created by people who flunked intelligence tests, who, as a major sponsor of sports events, especially the NFL, reacted to both the Rice incident and the Adrian Peterson arrest by issuing a press release that included the sentence:
"We are not yet satisfied with the NFL's handling of behaviors that go so against our own company's culture and moral code".
The problem with their statement, and the real problem with how the NFL handles societal and criminal matters could be traced back to 2009 and the NFL's handling of Dante Stallworth and his suspension and relatively quick reinstatement after pleading guilty to killing someone while driving drunk. It was also an incident, that for Anheuser-Busch given their reaction at the time compared to their reactions now, could lead to criticism that their "company's own culture and moral code" didn't include killing someone while driving drunk.
In 2009 Cleveland wide reciever Dante Stallworth killed a pedestrian
while driving drunk in his Bentley in South Beach in Miami. It came after a night of drinking at the Fountainbleu Hotel and ended at 7:10 a.m. when, driving back to his hotel, he ran down and killed 59 year old Mario Reyes , a crane operator who was crossing the street rushing to catch a bus to get to work. Stallworth's blood alcohol level at the time was 1.26. The legal limit in Florida was 0.08.
The first outrage, which had nothing to do with the NFL but might have influenced their reaction, was the Miami prosecutor allowing Stallworth to plead guilty to manslaughter in a deal that saw Stallworth receive a sentence of 30 days in jail. For killing someone. While driving drunk. Yes, 250 hours of community service too. But he killed someone. It was a working stiff, crossing the street, trying to catch a bus to get to his job to provide for his family when Stallworth, driving at 50 mph and over the speed limit, ran him down in his Bentley while stone drunk. That was good for 30 days in jail.
After pleading guilty to manslaughter, the NFL issued a statement saying they would review the matter for possible disciplinary action. Possible. As in, you know, maybe killing someone rises to the level of an offense requiring NFL discipline and maybe it doesn't. It certainly didnt rise to the level of Anheuser-Busch putting out any statements about behaviors that go against their company's moral code.
In the end Goodell gave Stallworth a 6 month suspension and he was reinstated to the NFL in Feburary of 2010, 8 months after pleading guilty to manslaughter.
No outrage by the news media or at Anheuser-Busch or any other NFL sponsor over Stallworth's lenient treatment. No expression of "disappointment" from Anheuser-Busch. Or anyone else. Except maybe the family of Mario Reyes.
So don't be fooled. Everyone who is now coming out the woodwork against domestic violence, from the usual sheep in the news media to Radison Hotels, Anheuser Busch and even Obama who felt the need to once again insinuate himself into a situation where no one asked him and where he has no place, arent coming out against domestic violence -- they are feeding off it.
They are feeding off it commercially or politically.Because it's all about PR or an attempt to avoid bad PR. So no one deserves a pat on the back. In fact a fair person might even say Ray Rice has shown more remorse and more honest contrition and a willingess to stand up and face the music and accept the punishment and public scorn for what he did than the NFL or any of its sponsors.
Domestic violence has been in the public consciousness for a long time. And while domestic violence, especially against women, was swept under the rug for centuries its been out in the open as a societal and legal cancer for decades. More than 30 years ago there was even a TV movie made about the Rideout case, a landmark case on domestic violence which focused on whether a husband could be found guilty of raping his wife. A jury for the first time in history said yes. There were many other cases related to domestic violence that had gotten wide spread media attention decades ago. Its not new. So when either the NFL or the Ravens or the news media or sponsors say they are reacting because they hadnt seen the second Ray Rice video, who are they kidding? What was in the second video they didn't already know? What havent they known for decades?
The first video showed Rice dragging his future wife out of an elevator as she was laying face down, out cold. Everyone knew how she got there. The second video was nothing new of any substance. What was new was actually seeing Rice throw the jab in the elevator that knocked her out. What followed after the second video became public was a mad scramble to save face and a lot of Olympic bandwagon jumping, the result of a See Dick Hit Jane mentality that created a PR nightmare for everyone concerned.
It wasn't that the second video made Rice look bad. The first video already did that. What the second video did was make everybody else look bad. It made the two game suspension look bad. It made the "boys will be boys" attitude of both the NFL and its sponsors look bad. So now everyone is scrambling. And it comes off as Mickey Rooney saying, "hey kids lets be against domestic violence."
The real question is why did anyone expect anything different?
Lets not get into a spitting match over which societal evil is worse, but for decades drunk driving has been treated as a minor offense when it is in fact domestic terrorism and should be treated as a felony even as a first offense. Every year more than 17,000 people are killed by drunk drivers.That's six 911 attacks every year. The number of people killed by drunk drivers every year is also 3 times the number of combat soldiers killed in the bloodiest year of the Viet Nam war. Every year. And in every case it was not the first time the driver had been arrested for driving drunk. Most had a multitude of prior drunk driving arrests. But never any jail time. Had they been sent to jail the first time, tens of thousands of people would be alive today who were killed by drunk drivers.
So if you can get reinstated in the NFL after killing someone after driving drunk, something that drew no outrage in 2010, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Rice was given a 2 game suspension for throwing a punch at his wife.
A few months ago Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts was arrested, booked and pled guilty to DWI. His NFL punishment -- a six game suspension. There were no protests from Anheuser-Busch about behaviors that go against their moral codes. And no outrage in the news media.
So no one should be giving Goodell any pats on the back. Goodell said he got it wrong with the Rice suspension. Where Goodell got it wrong was in 2009 with Dante Stallworth. And a few weeks ago with Jim Isray.And so is the news media that ignored Stallworth in 2010, and Irsay in 2014.And they probably will keep ignoring it. At least until someone from the NFL kills someone again driving drunk. Assuming there is video they can't run away from.