Was Ray Rice punished twice for the inexcusable abuse of his then fiancée and current wife, Janay? One side says “yes” and the other “no”. Last week, National Football League (NFL) Commissioner, Roger Goodell, testified in court in front of a federal judge who will decide if Rice’s suspension will be overturned or upheld. After initially being told about the violent incident, Goodell suspended Rice for two games. Once the videotape of the shocking attack by Rice was released to the public, Goodell suspended Rice for the remainder of the season. The detail that will determine whether or not Goodell’s later punishment was double jeopardy is about what Goodell knew and when he knew it. Rice’s attorney says Goodell knew all the details of the assault from the beginning (which would support double jeopardy and the overturning of the longer suspension), but Goodell’s side claims that new information was revealed once he saw the videotape.
I question whether or not any of it really matters. I think Rice should be punished because what he did was unacceptable. I don’t see consequences affecting Goodell and the NFL either way, though. People keep talking about the NFL’s image problem around issues of brain injury and violence, but as far as I can tell, the NFL hasn’t suffered too much. The NFL is the only game in town, and people haven’t stopped watching. Televised games are drawing more viewers than ever before. I think the negative impact for the NFL will be further down the road. As more parents refuse to allow their sons to enter the sport of football, there will be fewer people in the prospective pool of players. This will eventually lead to the demise of the sport. Ben Orlando describes in his podcast History Repeating Itself that football will go the way of the sport of boxing as far as the slow decline in popularity. For now, though, despite the scandals and the life altering danger, football continues to be America’s sport.