Chris Rainey, NFL rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers, found out the hard way that the league is attempting to crack down on players who commit domestic violence. Rainey was released from the team shortly after a dispute with his girlfriend erupted in violence.
The altercation between Rainey and his girlfriend began over the former NFL player’s cellphone. According to police in Gainesville, FL, Chris’s girlfriend was in possession of his cellphone; which prompted him to pull her out of someone else’s car in an effort to retrieve it. However, after removing his lover from the car, Rainey did not simply attempt to wrestle his phone from her. Instead, witnesses reported that the 5’9″, 180 pound former NFL rookie hit his girlfriend across the face with an open hand. With his phone still in her purse, she tried to flee the scene on foot but the running back easily chased her down. After catching her, he grabbed her bag and the two ended up on the ground in a struggle.
Rainey told police a different story, however. He told authorities that he was only trying to retrieve his cellphone while she was in the car and he did not hit his girlfriend in the face. He admitted chasing her down and that they ended up on the ground, but his version of events did not mirror what eyewitnesses told police. However, his past incidents of domestic violence were enough to convince the Gainesville police that his version of the truth might not be accurate. He was taken into police custody and booked that night.
In addition to the most recent charges, the former Steeler has had other off-field personal incidents that have threatened his career; which lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to release him from his contract. Back in Sept. 14, 2010 Chris was arrested and charged with aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony, for allegedly sending a former girlfriend an ominous text message that read, in part, “Time to die b-tch.”
With the recent tragedy of Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher killing his girlfriend, then himself, the NFL seems to be taking no chances with players who have a history of domestic violence. But, is there a way the NFL can help players before they commit acts of violence against their respective wives or girlfriends?
To begin, NFL officials can stop fostering a culture of idol worship among the fans of the league. Jovan Belcher murdered the mother of his infant daughter and the Kansas City Chiefs staff thought it appropriate to hang the murderers jersey in his locker in memorial to him. They did have a moment of silence for domestic violence victims, so that should offset the memorial to a man to took his girlfriend’s life…right?
In an article about the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide featured on ESPN-W website, the author pointed out the staggering statistics on domestic violence against women. “According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly one-third of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner, and in most cases, authorities discover that the abuse began long before a fatal crime occurred.”
Second, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can take as hard of a stance against criminal behavior off-the-field as he does behaviors that violate league policy on-the field. An article about domestic violence and the NFL featured on Slate.com highlighted the discrepancy in the commissioner’s commitment on-field versus off-field violations. Last year Goodell, “suspended Saints defensive end Will Smith for his role in the team’s “bounty program.” But he faced no league sanction when, in 2010, he was charged with domestic battery after allegedly grabbing his wife by the hair during an argument outside a nightclub. Though he was indicted by a grand jury in 2011, the charges against Smith were dismissed this March when he performed community service, went to domestic violence counseling sessions, and wrote an apology letter to the police.”
Clearly, the NFL needs to get its priorities straight regarding how they respond to players who abuse women in any manner.
Having a system in place to counsel players experiencing marital or relationship issues before they escalate into violence would be a great addition to all the financial benefits players receive. It’s not enough to hold a moment of silence for a woman who’s life was cut short by her boyfriend. And, it definitely sends a terrible message to players, fans and particularly women to hang the jersey in memorial of the man who did it.
If the powers that be in the NFL want their organization to be seen as one that has zero tolerance for domestic violence, they need to focus more on helping players prevent violence; and stop simply reacting to it or worse – turning a blind eye.