Race and Rice Part II

Looks like we got the lynch mob back together!  That’s right, after a job well done ending Donald Sterling’s basketball ownership, and destroying half of Ferguson, Missouri, we once again broke out the hoods and torches, marched to the jail, pulled Ray Rice out of his cell, and gave him a proper hanging.  After all, It’s the only way he could get what he deserved, right?

So who’s next?  I’m looking at you, Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald.  Adrian Peterson deserves a good “whooping” for the beating he gave his son with a “switch.”  Or should we just go straight to the top and throw NFL commissioner Roger Goodell out the window of his posh office?  It takes a little time to get a proper lynch mob together.  Why waste it?

Look, I get it.  I am outraged by what Rice, Hardy, McDonald, and Peterson did.  While a jury found Hardy guilty, I was shocked when Atlantic City prosecutors recommended Rice enroll in an intervention program with no jail time.  I thought Goodell did a horrible job explaining the punishment.  And when the second video came out showing Rice slugging his now-wife, it was so abhorrent I knew he was in serious trouble.

And, of course, he was.  Or is.  And probably always will be.  Because, you know, when we don’t like someone’s punishment, it’s only fair to enact mob justice to make it right.

Let me be clear–I believe all these people should be punished.  I just believe they deserve to be punished fairly, not severely.  ESPN’s Cris Carter, in his passionate speech about Peterson’s suspension, said, “You can’t beat a kid to make them do what you want them to do.”  So why do we try to do it with adults?  Does it help or change anything?  Or is it simply a way to make us feel better?  We’re acting like a pit bull on a two year old.  We won’t let it go.  And speaking of pit bulls, that leads me to the way I believe we should have handled Rice’s incident.

When I watched NFL games this weekend, I was reminded of a player who experienced a similar situation.  He only played a handful of snaps Sunday, and his only significance in the game was getting sacked.  But he plays a significant role in the debate we’re having right now.

When police arrested quarterback Michael Vick in 2007 for running a dog fighting ring, we expressed the same anger and shock as with Rice.  The NFL immediately handed down an indefinite suspension.  When Vick pleaded guilty, we applauded his prison term.  In 2009, after 21 months in prison and halfway houses, Goodell ended the suspension.  Vick returned to work, presumably a changed man.  Now, he not only plays in the NFL, he works with the Humane Society of America educating others about dog fighting and animal abuse.

That is how our judicial system is supposed to work.  We elect lawmakers to pass laws.  We elect state and county attorneys to prosecute the violators of those laws.  And we elect judges to hand down a fair punishment based on those laws.  And when the sentence is fulfilled, in most cases, the person returns to society, hopefully a better person.

Except when we don’t like it, right?  Ray Rice is paying a much bigger price than Greg Hardy or Michael Vick  And I believe it’s because they were convicted and Rice was not.  Some of you are doing to Rice what Peterson did to his son–we’re trying to beat him into submission.  He took a deal we all would take in that situation, one allowed by law and explained in further detail on www.nj.com.   Some of you were appalled at the two-game suspension Goodell handed down, especially after seeing what happened inside the elevator, without taking into account Rice was a first-time offender and was not found guilty.  The outrage basically took away Rice’s livelihood, probably forever, while giving Michael Vick’s back.  Discounting Michael Vick’s prison term, do you know how many games he missed he was eligible to play in?  Exactly two.  Again, sound familiar?

Look, I don’t blame you for not liking the punishment.  But don’t blame celebrity privilege or demand the prosecutors resign.  Work to change the law.  Don’t demand Goodell quit or be fired.  Why do we care if he lied about not seeing the video?  His first punishment was the right one based on the union contract and the past history of Rice and similar disciplinary action.  If you don’t like it, use the almighty dollar to make the NFL change the culture.  Stop watching.  Demand companies stop sponsoring and advertising.  I never understood why CoverGirl was the “Official beauty sponsor of the NFL” anyway.  And don’t force Sterling, Rice, Peterson, Hardy, McDonald, or Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson to the fringes of society.  Punish them, yes.  But allow them to learn from their mistakes and return to their jobs.  Are we better off if they were at the head of a fight for change, or with their heads on a pike?  Think about it, and in the meantime, keep those hoods and pitchforks at the ready.  Because you’re going to need them again, real soon.


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