Skip to main content

NFL and abuse: It's not just Ray Rice

By Mel Robbins
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mel Robbins: NFL let other players charged in domestic violence return to field
  • Robbins: Ray Rice punished, once there was video -- why not others? Goodell must go
  • NFL abused Janay Rice, she says; her defense of Ray Rice typical of battered women
  • Robbins: Imagine if NFL had handled case properly and all parties had gotten needed help

Editor's note: Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator and legal analyst. She is the founder of Inspire52.com, a news and entertainment site for women, and author of "Stop Saying You're Fine," about managing change. She speaks on leadership around the world and in 2014 was named outstanding news talk radio host by the Gracie Awards. Follow her on Twitter @melrobbins. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Ray McDonald, who plays for the San Francisco 49ers, was arrested August 31 on felony domestic violence charges involving his pregnant fiancee. The San Jose Police Department said McDonald's fiancee had "visible injuries," and the Sacramento Bee reported that police were previously called to his house in May.

McDonald is out on bail while the case is under investigation by the district attorney's office. He is due in court on September 15 and has yet to be charged.

But none of this stopped McDonald from playing on Sunday in the 49ers season opener, a decision the San Francisco Board of Supervisors just denounced. They've called for McDonald to be sidelined (with pay) pending the outcome of the September 15 court appearance.

Mel Robbins
Mel Robbins

Do we need cell phone video of every assault to make the NFL pick up the ball? Apparently we do.

There's Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers, who was convicted in July on domestic violence charges. Think he's in jail or suspended indefinitely like Rice? Nope -- under NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's leadership, he's on the field. And there are many other examples where the NFL looked the other way or was way too lenient.

Ray Rice has been punished for his despicable elevator assault on Janay Palmer, who's now his wife. Now it's time for the NFL to be punished for its despicable handling of it. The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, must go. With Goodell in charge, nothing is going to change the next time another player is charged with felony domestic violence. And next time is already here.

Under his leadership, the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens have handled the incident so horrendously that they're guilty of abusing Janay Rice too. Only TMZ rubbing Goodell's nose in this pile of dung forced the NFL to react.

Without TMZ releasing the video of Rice's assault, current and former NFL players wouldn't have gone nuts condemning him on social media.

Without the video, Ray Rice was going to play 14 games this season, earn commission as a character in the Madden '15 video game, and enjoy lucrative contracts with endorsers like Nike -- and that was just fine with the commissioner and the Ravens.

You might wonder why the NFL didn't see the surveillance video. Goodell told CBS (the network that broadcasts NFL games) that he "didn't know what was on that tape."

But he knew Rice hit her unconscious. He knew there was surveillance inside the elevator. Perhaps he didn't care to watch it. He wanted to get back to what's important: playing football.

The NFL abused Janay Rice when it didn't suspend Ray Rice immediately. NFL officials abused her by allegedly having him present as they interviewed her for their "investigation," putting her in an impossible situation.

Then the Ravens put her in the position of defending her abuser. They held a press conference where she apologized for the "role" she played. Ray Rice also apologized "to everyone who was affected by this situation that me and my wife were in," but not to his wife.

Stephen A.: Goodell should not lose job
CNN anchor speaks about abuse
Critics: Roger Goodell should be fired

You saw the video. Would you rat out the man who cold-cocked you while he's sitting next to you? Want to be the one "responsible" for making him lose his job?

They abused her yet again when the Ravens' official Twitter account tweeted "Ray Rice: 'I won't call myself a failure. Failure is not getting knocked down. It's not getting up.'"

And the NFL sent Janay Rice a very clear message when it handed her husband a two-game suspension: "This wasn't that serious, honey -- stand by your man." Head Coach John Harbaugh welcomed Ray Rice back to the team, as "a heck of a guy."

Six months after being assaulted, Janay Rice should be allowed to focus on healing. Instead she's now reeling from yet another punch -- this latest one from, surprise, the NFL.

She deserved better -- from her husband, from the Ravens and from the NFL. Of course she's lashing out and blaming everyone but Rice for this "nightmare." She's a battered woman.

Imagine if the NFL had handled this the right way back when the original assault took place. It would have sidelined Rice, pending an investigation. It would have talked to Janay Palmer privately, with a trained advocate present, and made it comfortable for her to be honest. It would have handed Ray Rice a suspension for the season and supported him through counseling.

One more thing: For the women in the media, like Taylor Marsh, who are calling Janay a "delusional" victim -- shame on you. You show a stunning lack of knowledge about domestic violence and the reasons why victims feel so paralyzed.

By blaming her, you isolate her and make it harder for her to leave. I suggest you try searching for the now-trending hashtag #WhyIStayed to educate yourself about what victims go through and why battered women's syndrome makes them stay.

Ray Rice has been dealt with. The Rices' marriage and his career will be tested over time. Ray McDonald was charged in August with felony domestic violence charges and is still playing football, and that's okay with Goodell. Greg Hardy was convicted of domestic violence charges in July and he's still playing for the league.

Think the NFL takes domestic violence seriously? Neither do I. Goodell -- it's time you go. Where's Adam Silver when you need him?

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:51 AM EST, Wed December 31, 2014
Pilot Bill Palmer says the AirAsia flight had similarities to Air France 447, which also encountered bad weather
updated 8:29 AM EST, Wed December 31, 2014
Poverty isn't the only reason why so many parents are paying to have their child smuggled into the United States, says Carole Geithner
updated 11:49 AM EST, Wed December 31, 2014
Michael Rubin says it's a farce that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei posted tweets criticizing U.S. police
updated 1:40 PM EST, Wed December 31, 2014
Ron Friedman says your smartphone may be making you behave stupidly; resolve to resist distractions in 2015
updated 8:32 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 8:27 PM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT