Breaking The Cycle Of Violence: Ray Rice, The NFL, & The Court of Public Opinion (Mustard Seed Musing)

I’m stunned.

Months after knocking out his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel elevator, Ray Rice has been cut by the Baltimore Ravens and banned indefinitely by the NFL. That is not what I’m stunned about.

I’m stunned that it took this long.

This morning, TMZ (the epitome of all that’s good in journalism, right?) posted a video of Rice punching his (now) wife in the face and knocking her out. And twelve hours later, the Ravens and the NFL were quick to distance themselves from him.

But didn’t we have video of Rice pulling Janay Palmer out of the elevator months ago? Didn’t we have his own admission that it was domestic violence? Did the powers that be think she ‘slipped’ and fell into his fist?

This, friends, is all an attempt at PR spin by the Ravens and the NFL. The proximity of their announcements implies the two were communicating fiercely since 1 a.m. this morning, to offset the blowback from Commissioner Roger Goodell’s weak two-game suspension. Sure, you can say that Rice entered pre-trial diversion counseling (more spin) and his wife refused to press charges, but what choice did she really have?

Too often, we sit back and let these things go by. Too often, we talk ourselves and our friends into bad situations and say, ‘oh, things will get better.’ Sure, maybe Palmer really loves Rice, or maybe she feels financially unable to stand outside of his shadow. But that doesn’t make punching a woman in the face right by any stretch of the imagination.

Having worked at shelters for battered women and children, I know it’s too easy for people in those situations to go back. It’s too simple to say, ‘we just can’t make it without him (or her).’ The truth is that something has to break the cycle, and too often its irreparable violence. What the NFL and the Ravens could’ve done months ago was placed Rice on the PUP list for the season, helping he and his wife get counseling, if they didn’t want to send out a lengthy suspension.

What they should do is set up grant after grant to provide programs and counseling for their own players, and their communities. What they should do is do PSAs and other community outreach, given their power as the biggest platform in the U.S., to hold those with solid families (I’m thinking Drew Brees, the Mannings, etc.) up as examples for all the young men that follow them. What they should do is remind young women that they don’t have to stay, that this is not the way they should expect to be treated.

But the league suspended Josh Gordon for a year for marijuana use, and practically disowned Michael Vick for dogfighting. Seriously, Major League Baseball won’t let Pete Rose back into the game for gambling! Shouldn’t punching a woman in the face and knocking her out be an obvious violation of our moral code?

I love football, and I know it’s a violent game, but here’s hoping that the NFL can get a grip.


About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at,, and the brand new
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