The one-punch standard

The football world has been striking poses left, right, and center, pretending that Ray Rice is the Second Coming of OJ Simpson. The Ravens released him and are giving out free jerseys in exchange for his old ones, the ever-sanctimonious Roger Goodell added an indefinite suspension on top of the previous two-game suspension, and various players and commentators are ritually denouncing him.

And for what? A single punch.

This is absolutely and utterly absurd. There are punches thrown in NFL games and practices every single week. If the NFL were to apply the one-punch standard consistently, half the African players would be out of the league by the end of the season.

This is not to say that Ray Rice is a good guy. If you watch the video closely, it looks like he does something to provoke her in some way at the elevator buttons. It almost looks as if he spits at her, she shoves him, he shoves back, and then she charges him and gets KO’d. We’re clearly not dealing with a pair of innocent angels here.

But here is the salient point. He’s not “beating her up”. He’s not abusing her. He’s not attacking her. In fact, the reason she got knocked out isn’t because he’s a big strong man, but because she was rushing at him. What he threw was clearly a defensive punch, and quite likely an instinctive one. I’ve been knocked out in much the same way while sparring, by walking directly into the sort of jab that one normally wouldn’t even feel. Remember, F=MA, so while Rice has a fair amount of Mass, a significant part of the Acceleration that provided the knockout force came from her rushing towards him.

There is a reason the prosecutor saw fit to allow Rice to avoid trial, most likely because there is considerably more than a reasonable doubt involved. One never knows with the inaptly named U.S. “justice” system, but it is highly unlikely that Rice would have been convicted of the one count of third-degree aggravated assault with which he was charged. To call his one-punch KO an assault, or even abuse, is to insult the men and women who are genuinely assaulted and abused. While ignorant people only look at the effect of Mrs. Rice crumpling to the ground, anyone with fighting experience is looking at how she rushed at him, how he retreated to the side of the elevator, and how he didn’t step into the punch or snap his hips. The police appear to have taken notice of these things as well.

“After reviewing surveillance footage it appeared both parties were
involved in a physical altercation,” read the Atlantic City Police

Lest you forget, intent matters greatly with regards to the law, and there is absolutely no indication that Ray Rice entered that elevator with any intent to harm his fiance or that he had any intent to do more than keep her off him when she rushed him. In fact, the only party that is seriously harming his fiance, now his wife, is the NFL, as Roger Goodell is depriving her husband of his ability to support her. That will certainly have more long-term negative effects on her than thirty seconds of unconsciousness did.

I see this as nothing more than pink shoes in October. It’s just another aspect of Commissioner Goodell’s clumsy and misguided attempt to market the league to women. Ask yourself this: how many of you, male or female, would still have your job if you were held to the one-punch standard being applied to Ray Rice?