By Christopher Price
There is no doubt that when the video tape of Ray Rice the NFL footballer, assaulting his now wife surfaced, a certain high powered sports administrator must have been shuffling nervously at his desk. Roger Goodall, the NFL commissioner must have been wondering what fine mess he has now got himself in to.
When sporting organisations get involved in the murky world of the administration of justice, they normally show themselves up to be out of their depth, unprepared and unable to deal with the fall out when things go horribly wrong; In a race to take the high moral ground stoked by public opinion and trying to look holier than the rest, the NFL are poking their 32 collective toes into very warm water; when they suspended Ray Rice indefinitely for the vile attack on his then girlfriend, now wife. They were clearly unprepared for the fallout.
Sporting organisations per say get very agitated when the law delves into matters that happen on the sporting arena. The truth is they don’t like it. What happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch. We will deal with it in house. Thanks but no thanks. The problem about this case is that the police and the authorities that administer justice dropped all charges on Rice, if he co-operated in some kind of anger management course and the NFL then slapped a two match ban. That would be the end of it they thought. They thought wrong. When the tape was release the NFL, were caught off guard and followed Rice’s immediate sacking by the Baltimore Ravens with the indefinite ban. Here is where people should be uncomfortable.
By revisiting their initial suspension, the NFL have sentenced a man for the same incident twice, a legal double jeopardy. They have restricted his right to earn a living as he is now unemployable and no club would touch him with a barge pole. He is now toxic. Unless he fancies flipping burgers for a change.
In the real world judgement and sentences passed down weigh heavily on the judges. Any judge will tell you that. It is far from easy to pass sentence that will change the course of a human’s life and I can only imagine the fraught that a judge goes through in places that carry capital punishment as an option. There have been way too many miscarriages of justice for it to be too frivolous.
In my experience as a sports administrator in a small Irish club, the top official normally excludes themselves from any disciplinary committee and that this committee is as independent as possible.
However by saying that “I got it wrong the first time”, Goodall proved that the administration of justice should be left to the big boys and girls and not to some economics graduate whose only experience has been with the NFL for the past 32 years. It also proved that Goodall had his finger prints all over the initial sentence on Ray Rice and the subsequent follow up, a cardinal sin for any top sports official.
Ray Rice deserved to be prosecuted by the full force of the U.S. justice system. There are no more heinous crimes that those imposed on women and children. The fact that he was not is the injustice. Judges in the real cannot can’t afford to “get it wrong the first time”. Roger Goodall would do well to remember that.