Lupica: Goodell finally gets it right with Ray Rice, but what the hell took so long?

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiCorey Sipkin/New York Daily News NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has admitted that his two-game suspension of Ray Rice was a mistake. It looks even worse following Monday’s release of video showing the Ravens running back punching his then-girlfriend, now his wife, inside the elevator of an Atlantic City Casino.

This is how it works in the world where celebrity doesn’t buy you out of trouble and a big contract doesn’t give you a soft place to land, where being able to hit a ball or dunk one or run with it down the field doesn’t make you bulletproof. If you do what Ray Rice did, if you throw the kind of left hook at your fiancée that Joe Frazier once threw at Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden and the whole world ends up seeing the video of you doing it, you don’t just get suspended without pay. You get fired.

The Baltimore Ravens fired Ray Rice on Monday afternoon, not so long after
TMZ.com posted the terrible video of what really happened in an elevator in Atlantic City on Valentine’s Day weekend, when that video came into the light like something coming out from under a rock. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner who originally suspended Rice for only two games, then suspended Rice indefinitely. About time.

There is no question that Goodell and the Ravens did the right thing here. But it took this video to get them to do the right thing, to hit Ray Rice as hard as he deserved to be hit for hitting a woman the way he did in that elevator. Understand: Rice is the one who shamed himself, and the woman who is now his wife, and his family, and his team. But there was more than enough shame to go around in this matter, because he originally got a slap on the wrist for that left hook.

Here is the statement issued by the NFL in the middle of Monday afternoon: “Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that based on the new video evidence that became available today he has imposed an indefinite suspension on Ray Rice.”

It means that nobody could sign Rice at this point even if they wanted to. When and if he tries to get another job in pro football, he has to receive permission from Goodell. It means that everybody, Goodell and the people running the Baltimore Ravens, finally get this right, after getting it so wrong in the first place, with an original suspension that now looks softer than soft ice cream.

And by the way?

If you want to feel sorry for someone, don’t feel sorry for Rice. Feel much sorrier, sorrier than ever, for Janay Palmer Rice, who took that left hook from the man who is now her husband and stood by him anyway, once she was able to stand up. She’s not just another victim of domestic violence in this country, another woman who got beat up by a man. The guy who beat her up is now unemployed.

When Goodell wrote a letter the week before last to the 32 NFL owners who are essentially his bosses, he said that he had gotten it wrong with Rice. As soon as we saw that video on Monday morning, we understood exactly how wrong, saw why Janay Palmer was on the ground the way she was when the elevator doors opened that night.

“I take responsibility for both the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values,” Goodell wrote at the time.

Ray Rice faces no criminal charges and is suspended by the NFL for just two games after hitting his wife, Janay Palmer, inside an Atlantic City casino elevator.Vernon Ogrodnek/AP Ray Rice faces no criminal charges and is suspended by the NFL for just two games after hitting his wife, Janay Palmer, inside an Atlantic City casino elevator.

The first statement from the league on the new video came on Monday morning. It read this way: “We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today.”

You immediately wondered how quickly Goodell would respond once he had seen the video, especially after having announced new sanctions in that letter to the owners. Even with enough possible loopholes for the next Ray Rice to run through, you are supposed to get a six-game suspension for a first offense and then face a lifetime ban if you are dumb enough and angry enough to commit a second offense against a woman.

You wondered if Roger Goodell would step up and make it six games for Rice, or the whole season, even if that meant a fight with the players’ union and Rice’s lawyers. It would have been worth it, of course, before things moved as quickly as they did in the afternoon, for the NFL commissioner to tell the young man seen throwing that punch in that video to go ahead and sue the league, and see how that worked out for him.

We have heard a lot in the months since the aggravated assault charges were filed against Rice — and since he went into a pre-trial intervention program that got him out of jail time — about how he is a good person, about how counseling has helped him, how this was a first offense for him, even with all the statistics about how many violent criminals are first offenders. Latrell Sprewell, as far as we know, never choked any other coaches before he choked P.J. Carlesimo.

Now Rice will get his chance to prove everything he’s said about himself and everything he says he’s learned without a job as a pro football player. He throws a punch like this and puts a young woman into an elevator railing and then down on the floor and it gets caught on a video that is finally seen the way this one has been seen and he loses his job because of that.

We always knew it had to be bad inside that elevator, for Janay Palmer to be out on the floor like she was when the doors finally opened. Now we find out just how bad. She is lucky the punch didn’t do more damage. So is Ray Rice. But it did enough damage. It turns out the guy knocked himself out in the end, right out of the league. The commissioner and the Ravens finally hit him as hard as he hit her. You just wonder why in the hell it took everybody so long.


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