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Rice not only one at fault in NFL downfall

Grace McComas was just like the rest of us, a 15-year-old sophomore at Glenelg High School in Howard County, Maryland enduring the daily grind that high school provides. However, unlike most of us, Grace was the victim of severe cyberbullying over a period of multiple months. 

Ultimately, Grace took her own life on April 12, 2012, Easter Sunday. Stunned were her parents, Dave and Christine. Shortly after Grace’s suicide, they vowed to fight for stricter bullying laws in Maryland and were fortunate enough to receive help from an unlikely source. Spearheading the movement to pass “Grace’s Law”, a law that prohibits cyberbullying of minors, was former Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice, recently cut by the team in the wake of the release of an elevator video which shows him punching and knocking out his then fiancée, Janay Palmer.

Rice hosted an event that attracted nearly 5,000 people through his “A Ray of Hope” campaign, dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers of bullying. Rice was able to gain the Maryland State Senate’s support and pass “Grace’s Law” unanimously. On May 2, 2013, Rice proudly stood next to Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley as he signed off on “Grace’s Law”. This is only one example of Rice’s run as a good samaritan.

Take Ashton Dean for example. A 9-year old boy who suffers from arteriovenous malformations (AVM), a rare condition in which patients have abnormal connections between their arteries and veins. Despite this, Dean was able to find an outlet to his misfortune through the help of a special friend: Ray Rice. Dean met Rice at an autograph session where he made a simple request to Rice: “Pray for me.”

From there on, the two formed a special bond. Rice keeps in constant contact with Dean by praying for him before every game, sporting a wristband in honor of Dean and calling every time he is in the hospital. Rice has also hosted a fundraiser for “Ashton’s Angels,” a charity used to bring awareness to AVM. So why is the NFL deciding to throw the hammer down on a first time offender with a track record like this?

On Feb. 19, the Ray Rice saga began. TMZ publicized the first of two videos from an Atlantic City casino security camera. This one showed Rice dragging Palmer out of an elevator. About five months later, the league gave Rice a very soft penalty of a two-game suspension. Public outrage ensued after the ruling and the NFL addressed domestic violence as a major issue by implementing a six game ban for first time offenders of domestic violence and a lifetime ban for a second offense.

Before week two of the NFL season, the league already had four other domestic violence cases on their hands, including the child abuse incident of Adrian Peterson, arguably the game’s best running back. What distinguishes these four from Rice? The public outcry after viewing the second video released by TMZ. This time, the security footage from inside the elevator on that same February night was made public and showed Rice winding up and hitting her, knocking her unconscious.

I do not, by any stretch, condone what Rice did. His actions from that February night are completely unacceptable and should not be tolerated in any environment. But Rice knows he made a grave mistake and admits that the hardest part of this is going to be the day his currently two-year-old daughter is “able to pick up her phone and Google her father’s name and the first thing that comes up is not how many touchdowns [Rice] scored, what’s going to come up is about [the domestic violence incident],” Rice said.

Upon the publication of the second video, the NFL decided to suspend Rice indefinitely, which led to his release from the Ravens later that afternoon. But what did the NFL expect to find in that second video? Rice had already confessed his wrongdoing to Commissioner Roger Goodell and did not lie in his self-incriminating meeting with Goodell. Why did this video spark added punishment?

Despite all this, Palmer and Rice appeared to remain loyal to each other and got married just over a month after the incident. Palmer has adamantly defended her husband in interviews and social media posts. Is this not evident enough that the couple has clearly accepted something that is so blatantly obvious? No one has ever been perfect; no one ever will be.

How does Rice deserve an indefinite moratorium given the league’s suspension history? Dallas Cowboys nose tackle, Josh Brent, is eligible to play this season after missing only ten games due to suspension for driving 100 miles per hour while under the influence of alcohol and killing his teammate Jerry Brown.

Let’s not forget the most memorable player given a second chance. His name is Michael Vick, infamous for his 2007 dogfighting scandal. The current Jets’ backup quarterback acknowledges that “there is no room” for Rice’s wrongdoing in the NFL, but believes that like himself, Rice deserves a second chance. Since then, Vick has molded himself into a model citizen for the NFL and has actively promoted the prevention of animal cruelty.

The guilty party of this mess is the NFL. Are they really considering banishing a man who has contributed nothing but good before his incident? Are they going to choose a man who has potentially prevented the suicide of hundreds of kids and touched the lives of thousands more? Ray Rice may have thrown the first punch in this mess, but the NFL must direct their retaliation strike in another direction, hopefully focusing more of their attention inward.

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