Maddening as the story might be, it is all too familiar to most sports fans. In a fit of rage, another pro athlete goes berserk and pounds his girlfriend like a heavy bag.
Who hasn’t watched the video of Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice dragging his then-fiancée unconscious out of an elevator? Now Ray McDonald, a defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers, has stepped into the spotlight on allegations that he punched out his pregnant fiancée.
Yet McDonald isn’t alone in this unwanted spotlight. He has company galore, starting with commissioner Roger Goodell.
In fact, Goodell is the bigger story, because how he responds to McDonald and this allegation of domestic violence might be the defining moment of his tenure as lord of the NFL.
After the light punishment he slapped on Rice, Goodell took blistering criticism on social media and elsewhere, and it didn’t look as if it would stop. But he soon stepped forward and admitted he hadn’t handled the situation well. He promised NFL fans that he would take sterner measures against athletes who beat women.
Promises in sports are too often empty, and perhaps the vow that Goodell made to NFL fans last week will be empty as well. Not likely, though. He can’t afford to let that happen.
Look, Goodell has seen the NFL’s shield tarnished over the past few months. Between widespread use of marijuana, convictions for drunk driving, abuse of amphetamines and sordid tales about battered women, Goodell has found himself juggling more troubles off the field than on it.
McDonald’s situation isn’t one Goodell can afford to mishandle. He must, of course, do his due diligence, and he will. But he must show fans — women, mostly — he’s willing to move swiftly to exact punishment.
The punishment McDonald faces is at least a six-game suspension, three times what Goodell handed Rice. Yet the commissioner can’t see six games as justice either — not for McDonald.
His fiancée was pregnant, and what could she possibly have done to McDonald to make him hurt her? What kind of love is that?
McDonald has been silent since his release from jail. The 49ers have been silent about the affair as well. They have left the entire matter with Goodell, and that’s where it should be.
So NFL fans wait for Goodell to speak, and when he does speak, they expect him to speak for all the women who have been victims of domestic violence. They demand justice, and Goodell had better deliver it.
That’s the best news for women, and it’s the best news for all people who care about the plight of women. They should never serve as a heavy bag for a man, regardless of how much they love him.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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