Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy got it right when he asked the salient question: “But what if there were no video?’’
Would Ray Rice still be playing for the Baltimore Ravens had his brutal attack on his then fiancée not been caught on video?
The NFL and the Baltimore Ravens really blew it and they should be held accountable. The NFL and the Ravens organization claim they never saw the video from inside the elevator. That is supposed to absolve them of responsibility now that it is public?
Everyone has seen the video of Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out of the elevator. In March, a grand jury charged Rice with third degree assault. In his press conference, Rice said “my actions were inexcusable;” that’s not who I am as a man, and “I made the biggest mistake of my life.” So what more did the NFL or the Ravens organization need to “see” at the time to know what happened inside the elevator?
The NFL’s two game suspension was a slap on the wrist. The league should have taken a much stronger stand at the time, and so should have the Ravens. The team was more than happy to punt the ball to the league at the time of the attack for whatever fines or punishment the league felt appropriate. The team cared more about keeping their star running back in the lineup than making it clear that domestic violence will not be tolerated in its organization. Only when the new video surfaced did the Ravens cut Rice and issued an anemic one line statement that only served to underscore the team is still unwilling to take a stand on this issue.
Compare all this to how the NBA handled the Donald Sterling debacle and check out the very handy timeline the NBA created. Four days after the Sterling audio tape surfaced, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life and fined him. In doing so, he made it clear that racism will not be tolerated in the NBA. In large part, you have to believe that played into the decision by Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson to self-report to the NBA that he sent a racist e-mail in August 2012 and that he will sell his interest in the team.
The Donald Sterling situation was a wake-up call for the NBA and team owners. Let’s hope the same will be true for the NFL so that something positive can come out of this travesty.
Ashley McCown also offered her advice–along with that of five other crisis communication professionals–in PR Week.