As a blogger in today’s fast-paced ever-changing world, you have to be quick out of the gate if you want to add your two cents to the world’s nickel concerns about its dime affairs. Alas, I was too slow to respond to the initial NFL/Rice decision. Now, I find myself in the dubious and embarrassing position of having to adjust my thinking (and writing) about the whole thing in light of the NFL’s recent indefinite suspension of the player.
I was against the original punishment handed down; a $700,000 fine, mandatory DV counseling and a two-game suspension. I felt at the time, it didn’t fit the magnitude of the assault and that he should’ve been handed a stiffer penalty.
We all saw the video when it was first reported by TMZ. We all looked for the mystery punch but didn’t see it; pundits even alluded to its absence. We saw only the results of it; a woman lying unconscious on an elevator floor. We knew she didn’t suddenly decide to lie down and take a nap in an in-service elevator car so to precipitate a different verdict or outcome based on such new evidence, as the NFL has done, is self-serving and unfair.
That the new decision is a self-interested one can be easily argued, especially after the NFL’s initial two-step parry. The public outcry coming on the heels of the first punishment prompted a change in the league rules producing a greater emphasis on stronger penalties that, in the league’s mind, not only better fit the crime of domestic violence against women but also fit the mood of the public at the time. And the public was out for blood.
But what’s at stake for the NFL is their recent marketing campaign geared towards the female football aficionado. Consider these female purchasing power facts from the webpage she-conomy.com:
- Of the NFL’s 185 million fans, 45% of them are women (Source: BusinessWeek, September 2013)
- Products made specifically for women make up 17% of all sports apparel: eight years ago it was close to zero (Source: BusinessWeek, November 2013)
- The NFL reports that spending on women’s apparel has risen to 76% since 2010 (Source: BusinessWeek, November 2013)
- Women make up 34% (1/3) of the adult audience for ESPN sports programs
- More women watch the Super Bowl than the Oscars; 46% of the viewers are women, up from 14% in 2002 (Source: BusinessWeek, November 2013)
- 44% of all NFL TV viewers are women, up from 34% in 2011 (Source: BusinessWeek, November 2013)
With such demographics, it’s no wonder the NFL is keen on presenting a brand to the world that not only appreciates and respects the public’s concern for domestic violence but also one that has initiated its own steps to ensure that those under its umbrella are held to the highest standard of adherence, with adequate penalties to enforce such compliance.
Still, I’d feel a lot better right now had the league taken its strong current stand in the very beginning. There wouldn’t be the appearance of an unfair, double-jeopardy situation the likes of which we have now. That’s my whole problem with the Rice suspension.
Another thing, in our efforts to quash domestic violence, we can’t overlook two necessary components of any program attempting to do so; components of fairness and forgiveness. On the one hand, unless we’re willing to say that once a man hits a woman, he’s lost his right to an equitable disposition of his offence then we have to be fair in dealing with him once he’s caught. That means that those judging the abuser have only one bite at the apple. Punishment, or rather the specter and threat of punishment, should not go on ad-infinitum once duly imposed.
And on the other hand equally so, unless we’re ready and willing to say that if a man hits a woman once, he gets no other chances to redeem himself, we then must have something inherent to any policy slated to curb DV, a component that forgives; especially for first offenses or if there’s evidence of something in the man that can be saved and changed.
Right now, neither fairness nor forgiveness is apparent in the NFL’s decision to suspend Rice indefinitely. Moving forward, that’s a big issue and one that will have to be addressed; once Joe public calms down.