Skip to main content

Rice 'punishment': What is NFL thinking?

By Carol Costello
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Baltimore running back suspended for two games after domestic violence incident
  • Carol Costello: I thought men didn't attack women they loved, until it happened to me
  • Costello: In my case, as in others, the woman victim wound up getting blamed
  • Fathers have to teach their children that violence against women isn't OK, she says

Editor's note: Carol Costello anchors the 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. ET edition of CNN's "Newsroom" each weekday. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- My dad told me real men don't hit women.

He believed that because men were physically stronger and mentally tougher, men had the obligation to shield women from harm.

I didn't buy the mentally tougher part, but I did embrace the idea that men were born with a kind of wonderful genetic code that made it impossible for them to pummel any woman, least of all a woman they cherished.

Carol Costello
Carol Costello
Anchor shares personal story of violence

I believed this all the way through grade school and high school. I believed it until my college boyfriend, in a jealous rage, threw me against the wall and knocked me out.

It only happened once, but I remember how it felt. I always thought I was a physically strong woman, but I could not defend myself against a man who outweighed me by 70 pounds.

Which brings me to star running back Ray Rice.

When video emerged of the Baltimore Ravens player dragging his unconscious fiancée from an elevator, I thought the whole world would be horrified. I thought the National Football League would come down hard on Rice.

Rice indicted on assault charge

I was wrong.

Rice will sit out two games and pay a fine. It reportedly will cost the multimillionaire athlete $529,411.24.

The Ravens' head coach, John Harbaugh, summed it up this way on ESPN:

"It's not a big deal. It's just part of the process. We said from the beginning that the circumstances would determine the consequences. There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray. He's a heck of a guy. He's done everything right since. He makes a mistake. He's going to have to pay a consequence." (In May, Rice pleaded not guilty to one count of third-degree aggravated assault and was accepted into a pretrial program for first offenders.)

Plus, come on! The guy went to counseling and married his victim, for goodness sake.

Say what?

In a wonderfully headlined post, "The NFL Thinks Smoking Weed Is Eight Times Worse Than Beating a Woman Unconscious," the website sports.mic contrasted Rice's situation with that of Josh Gordon, a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, who "is facing a 16-game suspension ... for testing positive for marijuana ..."

Actually this strange kind of "justice" meted out by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't bother me as much as what the Ravens posted on their Twitter feed. According to whoever tweets for the Ravens, Janay Rice herself "deeply regrets the role she played the night of the incident."

Perhaps the new Mrs. Rice really does feel that way, but the Ravens' "helpful" tweet is as tone deaf as John Harbaugh's Rice "made a mistake/he's a heck of a guy" comment.

Ayonna Johnson, director of legal services for the Women's Resource Center to End Domestic Violence, says, "When it comes to ... professional sports, unfortunately we're still in a male-dominant society." A girlfriend or a wife, she says, "has to bend themselves down, bend herself lower, and make her partner and her love interest shine a little brighter."

Even when her manly, wealthy, successful husband is clearly wrong.

Put more bluntly, take the blame, Honey, you probably deserved it.

I don't say that lightly. After my boyfriend knocked me out, I expected my friends to rally around me. Most did not. "He's such a nice guy," they told me in disbelief. "You must have made him really mad. You say some mean stuff. He really loves you."

ESPN's Stephen Smith played the role of my callous former friends on his show, "First Take." He assured his audience that, PERSONALLY, "as a man raised by women," he knows full well there's never an "excuse to put your hands on a woman," except, that is, when you must.

Smith blathered, "We also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation."

In other words, Ladies, don't provoke your man or he'll deck you.

Smith's colleague -- and my new hero -- Michelle Beadle tweeted, "I'm thinking about wearing a miniskirt this weekend ... I'd hate to think what I'd be asking for by doing so."

Smith tried to apologize, but the damage was done. Perhaps the NFL will try to apologize too, but again, the damage is done.

So, Mr. Goodell, a few facts for you to ponder for the future: According to safehorizon.org, one in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. One-third of female homicide victims are killed by their current or former partner.

According to the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, boys who witness domestic abuse are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.

It's why I thank God every day I married a man whose father was as old-fashioned as mine. Gordon Snyder taught his sons a slightly different version, though. Gordy said, "A man who hits a woman never hits a man."

Are you listening, Mr. Goodell?

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
updated 3:00 PM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
John Sutter says the right is often stereotyped on climate change. But with 97% of climate scientists say humans are causing global warming, we all have to get together on this.
updated 8:57 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Andrew Liepman and Philip Mudd: When we declare that we will defeat ISIS, what do we exactly mean?
updated 4:40 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Thailand sex trafficking
Human trafficking is a multibillion dollar global industry. To beat it, we need to change mindsets, Cindy McCain says.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
The leaders of the GOP conferences say a Republican-led Senate could help solve America's problems.
updated 10:01 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Nicholas Syrett says Wesleyan University's decision to make fraternities admit women will help curb rape culture.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Mike Downey says New Yorkers may be overdoing it, but baseball will really miss Derek Jeter
updated 8:32 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Quick: Which U.S. president has authorized wars of various kinds in seven Muslim countries?
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Women's issues should be considered front and center when assessing a society's path, says Zainab Salbi
updated 2:05 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
A catastrophe not making headlines like Ebola and ISIS: the astounding rate of child poverty in the world's richest country.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT