Thursday, September 18, 2014

NFL's Zero-Tolerance Policy is a Fumble

I'm sure everyone has seen the video by now of former NFL Running back, Ray Rice, knocking out his then fiancee (now wife) in an elevator. As if that was not bad enough (and it was), the NFL's bumbling handling of that situation has to go down as one of the most inane things I have ever seen.

First they gave Rice a paltry 2-game suspension. Unconscionable.

Then after the video of the incident surfaced, it put to rest all of the silly notions that she somehow deserved it or was provoking him and people got to see how devastatingly brutal the punch was that knocked her out cold.  The public outrage was palpable. So in typical knee-jerk fashion, the NFL caves to public pressure and suspends him permanently. Another mistake, in my opinion, but outside the scope of this blog.

Then came, what I believe, to be their most egregious error so far; the Zero-Tolerance Policy against domestic violence. One instance of domestic violence, and you're out for good.

A really terrible idea.

First and foremost, victims of domestic violence are under a lot of pressure to keep their mouths shut. Having their spouse arrested could tear their families apart, ruin them financially, put children in harm's way, force the abusers to lose their jobs, ruin the family's reputation, etc.  Being victimized by domestic violence is complicated.  There are a lot of social factors at play.

Enter the zero-tolerance policy. For all of the reasons victims have to keep quiet, as stated in the previous paragraph, plus now the risk of losing millions and millions of dollars.  If you go to the police after being abused, it's over. All of your money is gone. Your house is gone. Multi-millions of dollars per year, gone. All because the NFL has thrown a knee-jerk reaction policy at the problem instead of addressing the actual problem.

This zero-tolerance policy will not deter domestic violence by NFL players. It will only discourage victims from speaking up about it because they now stand to lose everything.

A more appropriate approach would not be so punitive, but instead constructive. Multiple game suspensions is appropriate. Professional athletes are competitors. They train year-round for games, and so disallowing them to participate does get their attention.  Disallow them to participate in any team activities and practices during the course of their suspension.  Players should be required to complete abuse counseling and also volunteer time at a rape crisis center and/or battered women's shelter.

Suspending someone from NFL competition for life does not, in any sense, address the problem. Ray Rice is a scumbag. But now he's a scumbag without a job. If the NFL cared about these abusers at all, and more importantly, their victims a solution to actually correct the problem would be advisable.

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