Over the last couple years, I’ve soured on football. I come from a football family—my mom had to reschedule her wedding around a Texas/OU game—and football is a big deal where I come from. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve lost my taste for football. It wasn’t one specific thing that did it, but more the accumulation of years of bullshit at both the college and pro levels, but things have really gone south over the last couple years. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. Exhibit B2. Exhibit C. Exhibit D. Exhibit-Fucking-E. You get the picture.
There’s a darkness at the center of America’s most popular sport and it’s disgusting, spine-crawling, and terrifying. Back in 2012, Slate’s Justin Peters found that 21 of 32 NFL teams had, at one point or another, at least one player on their roster who was charged with committing intimate violence. CHARGED. Not accused, not rumored or innuendo-ed. CHARGED. And nothing in the nearly two years since then suggests the NFL has done anything to clean up their act.
Which brings us to today, and the situation surrounding former Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice. The story begins in February, when TMZ released a surveillance video that (plainly) shows Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée, Janay Palmer, out of an elevator in an Atlantic City casino. At the time, Rice’s lawyer characterized the event as a “very minor physical altercation”.
The NFL got involved, though, because they pretend like this kind of thing actually matters to them, and ultimately league Commissioner Roger Gooddell handed down a two-game suspension of Rice. Most people thought this was more than a bit bullshit. Fast forward to now, and we’ve seen the other part of the story—what happened in the moments leading up to Rice dragging the unconscious Palmer from the elevator. And what happened is that Rice straight-up assaulted Palmer. There is no “provocation”, unless self-defense is considered provocative. (Hint: It’s not.)
Rice is now indefinitely suspended from the NFL. The Ravens have cut him from the team. They’ve (finally) deleted that awful tweet about how Palmer “regrets” her role in the incident. What was her role, exactly? You wanted us to believe she was as responsible for ending up unconscious as Rice, that much was clear by the early reporting on the situation. There were claims that she spit on him, that she hit him, too. But now, with the full video evidence on display, none of that is really true. This is not a case of her instigating anything—it’s a case of Palmer attempting to defend herself against her own goddamned fiancée.
It’s not just that Ray Rice is an asshole, or that the NFL is a league of assholes. People are awful everywhere you go—football doesn’t have a corner on the shittiness of human beings. No, the straw that broke this camel’s back is that no one will simply admit that the shittiness exists. Ever since TMZ released the second elevator video, the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens have both claimed they did not see it and had no idea what really happened.
You know what, fine. Let’s go with that. Let’s ignore how frankly ludicrous that sounds given the NFL’s vast reach and the power of its security branch—let’s just take everyone’s word for it that they didn’t know exactly what happened between Rice and Palmer in that elevator. I only have one question.
WHY DID IT EVER MATTER?
We knew from the beginning of this being a story that Rice was dragging Palmer’s unconscious body around. THAT’S ENOUGH. THAT’S ALL WE NEED. What did they think happened in the moments that lead up to that? A game of patty-cake gone horribly awry? No. Just…no. It was always going to be awful. It was always going to be violent and scary. It was always going to be him hitting her hard enough that she was unconscious for several minutes.
But the NFL and the Ravens didn’t really care about that. What they cared about was keeping their garbage player on their garbage field. They cared about football at the expense of a battered woman. At some point, people simply have to matter more. But time and time again, at every level of football, we are shown that people don’t matter. Not as much as football. And I can’t stomach that any longer. Football has a problem, and until they start treating the victims of intimate violence committed by people who happen to be good at running and catching things with respect and dignity, I’m done.
ETA: The AP is calling bullshit on the notion that law enforcement officials denied the NFL the tape. So, you know. Garbage people doing garbage things.