Ray Rice And The Burden Of Being A Reluctant Role Model
By Adam Juratovac
After watching the video of Ray Rice and Janay Palmer I am left with three things to say: as a man, I am disgusted; as a lawyer, I am interested; and as an athlete, I am disappointed.
I was raised to never strike a woman no matter the circumstance as I believe many are raised to do. Our parents, our coaches, and our mentors throughout our lives give this guidance to us and yet it still occurs. I believe hitting a woman is never an option in any situation. Whenever a story like Ray Rice’s comes up, the men I speak with always come to the same conclusion: WTF?! But stories like this also spark conversations among men with the question being, “When is it ever okay to hit a woman?” The situations and scenarios are vast and detailed and range from “when she is attacking you with a knife” to “she comes into the room with a firearm.” Even in the firearm scenario, 99% of men said that they would find another way to diffuse the situation.
Many men feel that there is never a situation where it is okay to hit a woman, but to some that seems unfair. What if the woman slaps, kicks, or hits the man first? Is he supposed to sit idly by? A lot of people are going to be asking these questions and trying to play up yet another “double-standard” where men’s rights are supposed to take the back seat to women’s. That is where the line will be drawn and men will look for equality. Except we already have it. Most women don’t think it is okay to hit men, and if they do, they consist of a small group—just like the small group of men who feel it is okay. We need to stop defending an attacker’s actions solely based on gender. The act of striking your spouse is inappropriate and disturbing. Period.
As a lawyer, I am only going to speak to the NFL’s new domestic violence policy. If I were the General Manager of an NFL team I would not sign Ray Rice. But according to the new policy, he should only be suspended for six games without pay for the first offense. The second offense results in being banned from the NFL with a possibility of reinstatement. Even though Rice will be hard-pressed to find a team that will sign him, I am interested to see the next steps that the NFL will take on its new policy because Rice's domestic violence charge happened prior. That being said, due process should still be afforded to Rice. The NFL should follow their new policy until we put enough pressure on them to change it. It worked in August (when the Rice incident first came to light) and it will work again. But remember, just because he is able to play in the NFL doesn’t mean that he will play in the NFL again. I am an NFL Free Agent. Can I play? Technically, yes. Will I find a team to sign a 270-pound offensive lineman who blew out his shoulder and has been out of the game for three years? Well, I wish.
Playing in the NFL is an opportunity that thousands of elite football players do not get to experience. NFL players are in a position of power and influence because their place in the public eye. We expect our nation’s athletes to be model citizens, mentors, and good role models, but is that fair? No. But we expect more because of their influence and their high-profile within their communities. It may be unfair, but it’s reality. And another reality is that there are too many truly elite football players—players who are good role models, who do the right thing—to allow this type of behavior to continue in the NFL. So many of these players’ lives are dedicated to the game, so many athletes live humbly, and so many of these athletes can teach positive lessons to our youth through their position of power. Too many stellar athletes in the game to make up for those who are not. It’s time that we take responsibility for the influence we’re given and use it positively. It’s time to take a stand and ensure that we continue to reinforce the lessons taught to us by speaking up and speaking out every single time this happens: athlete to athlete, player to player, role model to reluctant role model.