Was his suspension too lenient? Of course it was. That truth becomes especially apparent when placing Rice, and his offense and punishment, in context with other offenses and punishment, which this chart does.
The reason the NFL's work around domestic violence seems ineffectual is twofold. By the time these players reach the NFL, their views about how to treat women -- as well as their understanding of how to display their own anger -- are often already solidified. Education needs to start in middle school and high school, which is something the NFL recognizes but is just now beginning to address with its "Prep" programs aimed at high school and college student-athletes.
"The real problem is that these conversations about domestic violence are happening too late," says Wade Davis, the executive director of the You Can Play Project, who works closely with the NFL on issues of issues of conflict regarding cultural views of masculinity. "We need to be teaching kids that it's not okay to hit a woman, or another man -- that it's not OK to use violence as a natural response to anything. These conversations need to happen when they're younger."
One place these conversations could be happening, but almost never are, is on college campuses, within athletic departments. As Todd Crosset -- an associate professor at UMass who researches gender issues in sport -- points out, the reaction to most domestic violence offenders in the NCAA is to kick them off the team and off the campus. Little value is placed on counseling and rehabilitation; more on protecting the image of the program.
The NFL has little control over changing the culture of college football, which is a runaway beast of its own. But perhaps part of the solution should be engagement at the grassroot level, shaping thinking before it's set into behavior patterns. As solutions go, that's a tricky one, slippery and hard to effectively implement. Which is why the NFL could make an even greater impact by leading the conversation from the top, from its perch as the most influential sports league in America.
To this point, the NFL has been embarrassingly lukewarm on publicly attacking the issue of domestic violence. An issue it doesn't seem wishy-washy on? Combating breast cancer. The apparent reason for that choice: Everyone agrees breast cancer is awful, so it's safe, big business-approved. But that logic seems to imply that domestic violence doesn't fall into the same "safe" category, that combating domestic violence is, in some way, controversial.
But is it? Or rather -- why is it seen this way?
"The NFL has embraced the pink ribbon effort against cancer, which is one of the easiest community relations efforts to get behind," Crosset says. "Has the league chosen anything that's somewhat challenging -- as an organization? I don't think they really have. If you look at their charity programs, most are self-serving: introducing kids to football, building football fields. Of course, whether domestic violence is something they should take on, depends how good a job they can do. It's a difficult topic for an organization like the NFL to be involved with because it's not framed in a happy, let's-make-the-world-a-better-place way. There isn't a framing of it yet -- and there might never be -- that it's this happy, feel-good thing."