Ethics in the NFL


Earlier this year, former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice visited Atlantic City with his fiancée Janay and admitted to hitting her inside a casino elevator.  The two married shortly after the incident.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell originally suspended Rice for two games, framing the incident as a minor infraction and decided a suspension of two games would be appropriate.  Late into the summer, TMZ released a video of the entire elevator ride, causing it to be framed as a violent and brutal act.  On September 8th Ray Rice was released indefinitely from the Baltimore Ravens.

On November 5th and 6th Ray Rice’s appeal hearing was held in New York City.  According to the article from the WSJ, Rice’s attorneys are arguing he should not be disciplined twice, citing the collective bargaining agreement.  Rice’s side also is arguing that he described details of the incident to Goodell when they met in June. Goodell has called Rice’s description “ambiguous” while the player’s representatives have maintained he gave exact details.  Rice’s attorneys also say the indefinite suspension isn’t consistent with other punishments issued by Goodell in the past (Wall Street Journal).

Although the New Jersey Domestic Violence Laws would consider Rice’s incident an act of domestic violence, it is only a first time offense.  According to many who routinely handle domestic violence cases, “Violent domestic assaults rarely lead to jail time or serious legal consequences, especially when they involve offenders like Rice, who had no prior record.”  Jane Shivas, the executive director of the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women stated, “For a case to end this way is not uncommon, but it certainly is unfortunate” (New York Times).

This being said, the NFL is often viewed as allowing minor players to be punished harsher than the big name players.  Greg Hardy was found guilty of domestic violence, earlier this year.  His punishment was much greater than Rice’s.  He now has to go through 18 months of probation and was suspended from the Carolina Panthers.  The NFL should consider re-evaluating their ethical practices, they could benefit from following the ethical theory of Justice and Fairness.  John Rawls developed the Justice Theory, which states that in order to determine what is fair, we must create a hypothetical world.  In this world we would not know whether we are rich or poor, people would then agree that social and economic inequalities should benefit the least advantages; or in the NFL’s case, talented and non-talented players. The NFL should develop a new code of conduct for players, treating each of them equally.

What this case really comes down to is that Rice’s case closed in July.  It is unfair to the Rice family to re-open a closed case, especially one in which Rice was a first time offender.  Had he gone to court in the spring, he would have possibly been placed on probation, no jail time would have been enforced.  The league should have held a deeper investigation last spring, when the incident occurred and Rice had admitted to hitting his fiancée.  Rice has won his appeal and has been reinstated into the NFL.  This being said, it is doubtful any team will sign Rice this year.  However, other athletes have been reinstated after such incidents, like Michael Vick and Chad Johnson.

Melinda Lammert


Kocieniewski, David. “Ray Rice Case Draws Attention to a Crime Often Obscured.” New York Times [New York] 12 Sept. 2014: n. pag. Print.

“Ray Rice’s Suspension Hearing Concludes.” Wall Street Journal [New York] 6 Nov. 2014: n. pag. Print.

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