Updated September 8, 2014
The Baltimore Ravens have terminated the contract of Ray Rice after a new leaked video showed the player literally slugging and knocking out his fiancée in the famed elevator fight in an Atlantic City casino. The incident has infuriated the public and pundits about the NFL’s disciplinary policies. The video, released by TMZ, shows Janay Palmer slammed to the floor unconscious, then dragged into the lobby of the hotel.
The first video did not show “the punch.” Even though Rice was arrested last February and charged with assault, the incident resulted in a two-game suspension because the NFL did not have an established policy about domestic abuse.
The renewed debate about the league’s policies ultimately led to Commissioner Roger Goodell admitting he “didn’t get it right,” and the league instituted a new policy regarding domestic violence and sexual assault. The two-game suspension seems even less a punishment in light of the new video.
Ray Rice is not the only player to have a run in with the law.
The San Francisco 49ers have a stacked team, a well-respected coach and a star quarterback that has the potential to lead them to multiple Super Bowls. They also have a problem with their players getting into legal trouble. Over the past three years the 49ers have lead the league in arrests with 10, the latest being Ray McDonald, arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. But the NFL’s arrest woes extend far beyond San Francisco.
It is a problem that absorbs the entire NFL — one of many issues that will hang over the new season that kicks off this week. Although the overwhelming majority of players haven’t been indicted, the league still has a problem with off the field behavior. The San Diego Union-Tribune maintains a database of all NFL player arrests and citations since 2000 — anything “more serious than speeding tickets.” In all, the list includes 719 records. And, the website warns, the list cannot be considered comprehensive.
To be clear, the database covers abroad range of allegations and charges, from marijuana possession to DUIs to disorderly conduct, assault and murder. In some cases, the players were acquitted of the charges.
Still, the sheer volume of incidents continues to be a public relations nightmare for a league that otherwise dominates the American sporting landscape. The NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell continue to face criticism for how it disciplines players (as well as coaches and owners).
The six high-profile cases here hint at just how damaging these recent incidents can be. All six involve active stars, or in the case of Aaron Hernandez, a player who would still be in the prime of his career if he wasn’t facing murder and weapons charges.
Despite it all, we will still watch Sunday. Are you ready for some football?
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