Ray Rice and David Vitter: Race and the Double Standards of Domestic Violence

I am a political science professor. Should I grade my students based on their personal lives? If a student beats her husband, should I fail that student? If that student does not believe in God, should I fail that student? If I see student smoking marijuana on his front porch, should I fail that student? Should a company fire an employee because she engages in corporal punishment when disciplining her kids?

When meting out punishment, you have to consider your role. Do I allow students’ personal lives to enter into the equation when grading them? Of course, the answer is no. What people do in their private lives, with their significant others, and with their kids is not my business. People do have the right to privacy. We must not lose sight of the fact that some things are none of your business.

For some reason, society has become to think that everything that goes on in someone else’s private or personal life is public. What happened in the elevator between Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his now-wife is none of our business. Yet, some people think they are entitled to know what occurred on the elevator and why. That is a matter for law enforcement, not your curiosity. Rice does not have to answer to you, satisfy your curiosity, or make you feel better about your fake moral outrage. No one condones domestic violence. Your role is to report it and help the victim. Law enforcement will prosecute the offender. You are not entitled to a press conference, any answers, or video footage.

On Thursday, July 31, Rice gave a press conference to talk about the incident that led to his two-game suspension. Bad move. He will never satisfy some people no matter how contrite and apologetic he is. Ask New York Jets quarterback Mike Vick.

Many pundits and observers were talking about what they want to hear from Rice and how he should behave. Did anyone notice that they did not have counselors on to assist viewers on how to deal with domestic violence, either as observers or victims of domestic violence? Did anyone notice that no one encouraged others to donate to efforts to assist victims of domestic violence?

Stop the fake moral outrage because if you are really outraged, then you would do more than go after Rice.

Many think that the NFL has been too soft on Rice, suspending him for 2 games. I wish people would engage in more critical thinking when they spout off about being tougher on others. When the NFL suspended Rice for those two games, it is not some small punishment. It equates to about $410,000 in lost income. When you suspend Rice, you suspend his wife. She suffered enough already. So, if you take away his money by suspending him, then you take away her money.

The NFL suspended Rice for only two games because Rice’s wife did not want more punishment for her husband. Keep in mind, Rice was not arrested. We do not know what happened on that elevator.

Think about the NFL’s role. It cares about the bottom line, not necessarily how its players behave off the field. It focuses on unfair advantages of players or teams. So, certain substances are banned. The NFL protects sponsors and media rights, so attire and video are policed. What players do in their private or personal lives are less of a concern.

There are other forms of violence perpetrated against women. Need I remind you of the Republican war on women? Where is the outrage on Republican efforts to make or solidify women as second-class citizens? There is financial violence (women earn less than men) and emotional violence (abuse of women psychologically).

I submit there is intimate violence. To me, this is when people cheat on their spouses, which we know occurs a lot. David Vitter, a white Republican senator of Louisiana cheated on wife with prostitutes. He used money that could have gone to providing for his family on a prostitute. What was his punishment? Re-election. Yes, he was re-elected despite committing this crime and confessing to it. Where was the moral outrage? Society only cares about protecting Black women when the person to be punished is Black.

ESPN does not care about Black people. The network and its pundits who we have never seen before did not go after Rice because they care about his wife. They went after him because he is Black. If it was a matter of domestic violence, then they would have reported on the issue before this incident and would continue to do something to curtail violence against women. The network will not do anything to raise money for victims of domestic violence or provide information on what to do when you see it or hear it.

ESPN should stick with what it does best: air arguments about inconsequential topics and in-depth analyses on the attire of athletes.

 Dr. Maruice Mangum, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs Associate Professor, Department of Political Science Texas Southern University

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