July 28th, 2014
11:32 AM ET

Rice 'Punishment': What is NFL Thinking?

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.


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.

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.

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?

RELATED: Baltimore Raven Ray Rice indicted on assault charge

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Filed under: Opinion
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Bobbie

    Men should be protectors of women, they are usually stronger. What about the cry for equality though? Do women want to be equal or not? If she spit in his face as some witnesses say and she instead was a man, it would be accepted or even expected that Rice would not tolerate that.

    October 24, 2014 at 10:31 pm | Reply
  2. Jeff

    The obligation to make this right is the judicial system. Certainly sounds like laws were broken and nothing was done by prosecutors.
    The NFL acted within their policies and ability by giving Rice the 2 game suspension. Domestic violence certainly demands greater punishment than 2 games but it is the courts that have failed. Goodall and the owners have changed policy. Good for them. What is the judicial system doing? Who are we really angry at those who made a stand and improved their policy or the judicial system that is accountable for enforcing the law that has been violated by Mr. Rice and have done nothing.
    What the NFL did by changing the rules then applying them to Rice after the fact has paved the way for a lawsuit against the NFL by Rice. Rice is likely going to be rewarded for this act of Domestic Violence. Lets start asking these questions of the judicial system and NOT the NFL.

    September 12, 2014 at 8:31 am | Reply
  3. b harris

    I do not think the punishment fit the crime before the video. Nor do I think you can change the punishment after the video. Who over sees the N F L ! Stop watching football.

    September 9, 2014 at 9:18 pm | Reply
  4. Teddy

    I just wonder how biased is the opinion that a man hitting a woman is worse than a woman hitting a man? What if this were a same sex partnership would it be the same outrage with two men? What about two women? I think its truly time for these double standards to be done away with. A woman can simply claim abuse with absolutely no proof whatsoever and destroy a mans life. Whether the claim of abuse be physical or sexual in nature. Society & women can claim they want equality but still play the helpless victim role when it comes to domestic violence. How many men suffer from abuse but are too ashamed to file charges due to way society looks upon it. How many men have been able to claim rape and have women sent to prison only to later admit or it be discovered that he lied on her? Any person regardless of gender should not be abused but at the same time any person should be able to defend themselves when they are. There are no more men & women roles according to American society and with that there should be no more preference over women than men when it comes to abuse.

    July 30, 2014 at 1:22 am | Reply
  5. Deborah Crater

    The NFL appears to have beaten Mrs. Rice themselves by providing her with a forum to publically apologize for her shame and her role in being beaten unconscious by her husband. Ludicrous!

    July 29, 2014 at 6:15 pm | Reply
  6. Lyn Hamilton

    Why is the NFL involved in a domestic violence issue? You think any other 'company' in this country would get involved? This is between him and her – and if she didn't take a 2×4 upside his head the first time he hit her – then it is on her. Because if he hits once – he will do it again – and if you stay and put up with it you are dumb as a stump. But maybe the money is more important than her self-respect. And yes, I am female, white and 62 years old.

    July 29, 2014 at 2:36 pm | Reply
  7. Tracy

    Thank you so much for finally saying this. I also want to point out that you don't one day become the type of person who hits a woman and if he would do that to her in public, what do you think he does in private.

    July 29, 2014 at 10:56 am | Reply
  8. Randy Champion

    If Roger Goodell is willing to give Ray Rice only a "2" game suspension for beating a woman to a state of unconsciousness, then Ray Rice should spit in the face of Roger Goodell on behalf of all women everywhere ..... the punishment for doing this should only be a "Letter of Warning."

    July 29, 2014 at 9:45 am | Reply
  9. cheryl hill

    Outrageous .Once again the victim is blamed.He could easily have killed her.A young .strong man like him hitting a much smaller weaker person .He was very lucky .She was lucky .He is a bully.The outcome of his punishment shows just where the male mindset is.With everyone crying about their rights somehow women have fallen behind.Of all the different groups women are the least respected .All women world wide need to take note.

    July 29, 2014 at 9:17 am | Reply
  10. marcia smith

    Thank you for having the courage to speak out and share your experience to motivate women who may be in the same situation. You are a hero.

    July 29, 2014 at 8:51 am | Reply
  11. Richard Jones

    Yea I guess he does feel bad he just knocked out his wife. I don't care what she did, he should have just walk away

    July 29, 2014 at 7:33 am | Reply
  12. Kevin

    I guess Caroll Costello saw the video inside the elevator. Was she taught not to attack a man. As far as I know the public has not seen the video. She could have attacked him with a knife in the elevator as far as we know. With out the facts of what happened, I think it is very careless to pose judgement on anyone.

    Sorry she was abused but it does not mean a man cannot be abused by a woman.

    July 28, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Reply
  13. Wayne Reeseg

    The problem with a 2 game suspension worth a half a million dollars or a full year totaling in excess of four million is that it has the same punitive results on his wife, the victim. It would be better to have him work pro bono off season at a battered women's shelter.

    July 28, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  14. Charlie T

    Women should boycott the first two games of the Ravens this year. That would speak volumes to Goodell and Harbaugh because it's the almighty $ that speak to the organization. The problem is the same for Goodell now, he won't reverse his decision because like an abuser that would be admitting he was wrong.

    July 28, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Reply

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