Skip to main content

Rice 'punishment': What is NFL thinking?

By Carol Costello
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Baltimore running back suspended for two games after domestic violence incident
  • Carol Costello: I thought men didn't attack women they loved, until it happened to me
  • Costello: In my case, as in others, the woman victim wound up getting blamed
  • Fathers have to teach their children that violence against women isn't OK, she says

Editor's note: Carol Costello anchors the 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. ET edition of CNN's "Newsroom" each weekday. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- My dad told me real men don't hit women.

He believed that because men were physically stronger and mentally tougher, men had the obligation to shield women from harm.

I didn't buy the mentally tougher part, but I did embrace the idea that men were born with a kind of wonderful genetic code that made it impossible for them to pummel any woman, least of all a woman they cherished.

Carol Costello
Carol Costello
Anchor shares personal story of violence

I believed this all the way through grade school and high school. I believed it until my college boyfriend, in a jealous rage, threw me against the wall and knocked me out.

It only happened once, but I remember how it felt. I always thought I was a physically strong woman, but I could not defend myself against a man who outweighed me by 70 pounds.

Which brings me to star running back Ray Rice.

When video emerged of the Baltimore Ravens player dragging his unconscious fiancée from an elevator, I thought the whole world would be horrified. I thought the National Football League would come down hard on Rice.

Rice indicted on assault charge

I was wrong.

Rice will sit out two games and pay a fine. It reportedly will cost the multimillionaire athlete $529,411.24.

The Ravens' head coach, John Harbaugh, summed it up this way on ESPN:

"It's not a big deal. It's just part of the process. We said from the beginning that the circumstances would determine the consequences. There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray. He's a heck of a guy. He's done everything right since. He makes a mistake. He's going to have to pay a consequence." (In May, Rice pleaded not guilty to one count of third-degree aggravated assault and was accepted into a pretrial program for first offenders.)

Plus, come on! The guy went to counseling and married his victim, for goodness sake.

Say what?

In a wonderfully headlined post, "The NFL Thinks Smoking Weed Is Eight Times Worse Than Beating a Woman Unconscious," the website sports.mic contrasted Rice's situation with that of Josh Gordon, a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, who "is facing a 16-game suspension ... for testing positive for marijuana ..."

Actually this strange kind of "justice" meted out by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't bother me as much as what the Ravens posted on their Twitter feed. According to whoever tweets for the Ravens, Janay Rice herself "deeply regrets the role she played the night of the incident."

Perhaps the new Mrs. Rice really does feel that way, but the Ravens' "helpful" tweet is as tone deaf as John Harbaugh's Rice "made a mistake/he's a heck of a guy" comment.

Ayonna Johnson, director of legal services for the Women's Resource Center to End Domestic Violence, says, "When it comes to ... professional sports, unfortunately we're still in a male-dominant society." A girlfriend or a wife, she says, "has to bend themselves down, bend herself lower, and make her partner and her love interest shine a little brighter."

Even when her manly, wealthy, successful husband is clearly wrong.

Put more bluntly, take the blame, Honey, you probably deserved it.

I don't say that lightly. After my boyfriend knocked me out, I expected my friends to rally around me. Most did not. "He's such a nice guy," they told me in disbelief. "You must have made him really mad. You say some mean stuff. He really loves you."

ESPN's Stephen Smith played the role of my callous former friends on his show, "First Take." He assured his audience that, PERSONALLY, "as a man raised by women," he knows full well there's never an "excuse to put your hands on a woman," except, that is, when you must.

Smith blathered, "We also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation."

In other words, Ladies, don't provoke your man or he'll deck you.

Smith's colleague -- and my new hero -- Michelle Beadle tweeted, "I'm thinking about wearing a miniskirt this weekend ... I'd hate to think what I'd be asking for by doing so."

Smith tried to apologize, but the damage was done. Perhaps the NFL will try to apologize too, but again, the damage is done.

So, Mr. Goodell, a few facts for you to ponder for the future: According to safehorizon.org, one in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. One-third of female homicide victims are killed by their current or former partner.

According to the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, boys who witness domestic abuse are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.

It's why I thank God every day I married a man whose father was as old-fashioned as mine. Gordon Snyder taught his sons a slightly different version, though. Gordy said, "A man who hits a woman never hits a man."

Are you listening, Mr. Goodell?

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT