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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?

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