Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ray Rice and the power of pics

Spend enough time on the Internet and eventually you'll come across the meme "pics or it didn't happen." Usually this is in response to some exaggerated tale from some anonymous person bragging about some feat that is so amazing, so astounding that the only way it could be believed is if there is some sort of documented photographic evidence to support the claim. It's basically the Internet's way of making that guy in middle school who says "yeah, I've got a girlfriend, but she goes to school two towns over and anyway you wouldn't know her but she's really hot and I totally got to second base" actually prove it.

While there may be some actual instances when it's used in seriousness, I've seen it used mostly as a joke. It's a fun way to call b------- on internet braggers.

That brings us to Ray Rice. The former Baltimore Raven initially suspended for two games after video surfaced of him dragging his then-fiance (now wife) out of a hotel elevator in February. The underwhelming punishment, especially in light of the NFL's seemingly haphazard punishment system, led to an outcry from pretty much everyone who said it wasn't enough. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said it was a mistake and changed the league's policy regarding domestic violence punishments in the future. (Just don't ask them about San Francisco 49er Ray McDonald.)

Well, Monday video surfaced showing Rice striking his fiance in the elevator and it's as appalling as you'd think a video of a man paid to withstand a physical pounding on his body knocking a woman unconscious would be. Suddenly there was new outrage. Within a few hours, the Ravens cut him from the team and a short while later, the NFL suspended him indefinitely (which one writer likened to a guy showing up at the end of a bar fight after it's over and yelling at the losers "yeah, you better be glad my friends are holding me back.)

What changed between the initial suspension and the current one? Just the video. Goodell tried to defend the league by saying they didn't know the details of what happened inside the elevator until Monday. Most of the smart people I've read on this seem to believe that either the NFL had seen the video before Monday or they didn't want to see the video to claim plausible deniability. Taken at face value, which you shouldn't, he's admitting there may be a justifiable reason for a professional football player knocking his fiance out cold. More cynically, the NFL hoped they could sweep this under the rug and it would all go away.

Either way, the NFL seemed to be basing its decisions on the "pics or it didn't happen" approach. Only, in this case, the guy really did have a hot girlfriend two towns over and he had the pics to prove it. As Patrick Hruby wrote, "The NFL isn't reacting to the video, they're reacting to the fact we saw the video."