Ray should not have hit Janay.
That is one problem, and here is another problem. At first, the NFL suspended Rice for two games. Some people were really upset that it was too little punishment. After additional video of the incident was made public, the NFL gave Rice an indefinite suspension. The pendulum seems to have swung far in one direction and far in the other direction. This arbitrariness is not going to address the real problem at hand.
Football players are celebrated for being violent. Fans cheer when one player hits another player with such force that it knocks off one’s helmet or leaves a player flattened on the ground. Commentators commend players who can aggressively clear paths for runners or break through efforts to block them. Football players are celebrated and rewarded for aggression from the time they play in little league, through their high school and college careers. By the time a football player become a professional, he has been groomed through psychology, conditioning, and diet to be an aggressive human being who knows how to inflict physical punishment with power and precision.
Fans love the violence. Owners grow wealth on the violence. Marketers pay athletes to promote their goods and services because they find the violence acceptable.
Professional football players have been coached and conditioned to be violent for many years. Who coaches and conditions them to negotiate boundaries so that people who oppose them off the field are not responded to with the violence that has been nurtured on the field? When young men are nurtured to be violent athletes and rewarded for being violent athletes, why are we surprised when they sometimes fail to contain the violence to the field? Why should we assume that they are going to successfully turn on and turn off their violent responses to opposition?
Should someone who benefits from the violence also have a responsibility for helping the athletes that bring them fame and fortune to be “redeemed” when they are guilty of transgression?
We celebrate Ray Rice excelling in the violent context of professional football. When he crosses the line with violence where he is aggressive when someone off the field, the very people who enjoy profit or entertainment from his abilities want to throw him under the bus.
And as the NFL tries to figure out what to do about professional football players who are guilty of sexual and domestic abuse, who is going to guard against conscious and unconscious racial biases against the majority African-American athletes caught up in this swirl of violence?
Ray should not have hit Janay? And a media driven mob should not seek to destroy him in the name of justice.