Thursday, July 31, 2014

Unquestionably inconsistent

(Let's pause for this message, brought to you by the National Football League®™©, America's Game:
You don't count. Your money's good, and we'll take it, as much as you want to give. But you? Not so much.)
By mistake last week, I clicked on the name Ray Rice, confusing it with Ray Price and thinking I might hear a long lost song from the late country crooner, or something. Because I'm old and out of touch.

Instead I found the shame of the nation. Or what should be, anyway. Your shame and mine.

"Oh yeah," I thought when I clicked, "this is the football player who punched his fiancée, knocking her unconscious." The video of Rice dragging his fiancée's body out of a casino elevator went viral.

Rice is a running back with the Baltimore Ravens. He's playing under a 5-year, $35 million contract.

When I first saw the video earlier this year, I didn't pay it much mind. I'm no football fan, so maybe I'm being unfair, but when I hear news related to the National Football League©®™, it's as much about players being caught with drugs … or trying not to get caught with drugs … or driving drunk into a tree … or brawling at a nightclub … or carrying a weapon illegally … or firing a weapon … as it is about play on the field.

Off-field violence — rape, attempted rape, murder — has become as much a hallmark of the NFL®©™ as the on-field mayhem we seem to love so much.

Other sports share their problems — my San Francisco Giants must deal with its share, for example. But nothing — nothing — on the scale and regularity of the NFL®™©.

Ray Rice? Pffft, take a number, sit over there with the rest of the bunch. One more reason not to give the NFL™©® any attention, certainly not my money.

Why did Rice's name show up last week on the Internet? Because the NFL®™© punished him for the alleged punishing Rice delivered his girlfriend, Janay Palmer, in February.

If you can call it punishment: Rice is suspended for two games the upcoming season, losing more than $500,000 in salary, and fined another $58,000.

Two games.

I say "Chump change!" and you say "Sucker!"  
"Chump change!" ________________
Rice was indicted on a felony charge, but avoided trial by participating in an intervention program. He and his fiancée, who was also charged with hitting Ray Rice in the same incident, married.

Delivering punishment, NFL®™© Commissioner Roger Goodell told Rice:
"As you acknowledged during our meeting, your conduct was unquestionably inconsistent with league polices and the standard of behavior required of everyone who is part of the NFL. The league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game. This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women."
Goodell does not see the glaring irony of "unquestionably inconsistent."
The National Football League ©®™: Unquestionably Inconsistent!™
Let's put the NFL's®©™ scales of justice into perspective:

At the same time, wide receiver Josh Gordon with the Cleveland Browns is preparing to appeal a season-long suspension for his second alleged use of marijuana in the off-season. The NFL™®© suspended more than a dozen players in 2014 for violations of the league's substance abuse or performance-enhancing drug policy, reports a website called Most of those players were suspended for four games — twice as many as Ray Rice — some for the entire regular season.

All laudable, though I question the harm of recreational marijuana use — which two states legally allow — especially compared to the severity of beating someone unconscious.

The NFL™®© suspended a Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Terelle Pryor, five games for tattoos he allegedly received free, in violation of NCAA policy, while paying in college.

I can see how a league that so utterly upholds appearances, fining players if they don't pull their socks up correctly, would want to crush the illegal tattoo getting thing.

Yet when a player beats a woman unconscious, he sits out two games.

The NFL©®™ "simply cannot tolerate" it!

The Ravens' owner Tom Bisciotti is quoted in a Ravens' PR column that Ray Rice is a great guy and the punching of his fiancée was "out of character."

"Don't we all have days or moments or periods in our life we regret?" Bisciotti asked.

(Let's take time out for this message, brought to you by the National Football League©®™, What America is All About:
It's OK to hit a woman! Promise not to do it again? OK, all better!)
The NFL®™© congratulated itself, then defended itself in the wake of widespread scorn and criticism. Ray Rice's coach, John Harbaugh, said he's disappointed but supports his player. Fans cheered Ray Rice's name at training camp this week.

I'm not adding anything new to the pervasive condemnation of the NFL®©™'s terrible decision. You want a righteous, searing rant about the wrongness of it? Enjoy Keith Olbermann's take.

I'm just doing my little bit to spread the word about this, in case you don't follow football.

It's fair to say the NFL®©™ is the most popular sport in the country. It's the taste maker, the exemplar, for good or ill. In the last couple of years it has stepped up its marketing to women, offering special licensed apparel from top-name makers, and other ways to attract more women to the sport.

With the Ray Rice decision, the NFL®©™ is effectively saying it doesn't want women fans so much as women fans' money. It's establishing that women don't count. Nor do fans who believe it's not OK to hit women.

What counts in all things is money. The NFL®™© wants butts in seats and eyeballs on TV big screens, clad in licensed NFL®©™ gear. It wants you to travel on the official plane and stay in the official hotel and eat the official hamburger of the NFL®™© — paid for with the official credit card.

Ray Rice puts butts in seats and official NFL®©™ beers in fans' hands. He makes money. He counts. Not you.

Fan or not, you can do something. Tell the NFL®™© it's wrong and must mete out punishment befitting Ray Rice's offense. Failing that, vote your pocketbook. The NFL®™© can hear your wallet closing and your TV turning off.

But if you shrug it off; if you see the NFL®©™ as purely hard-hitting entertainment — serving up the mythos that it sport is the emblem of our brawling, looking-out-for-No.-1 country — then the league wins and assaulting women is officially no big deal.

The NFL®©™ is counting on you not to care.

(We'll be back after this message from the NFL™®©, Made of Money:
We win!)

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