That left the NFL. Roger Goodell is in charge, and has been very strict about punishments and fines. When he became commissioner in 2006, his mantra was to clean up the league. And he was initially quite harsh, banning players left and right. But then he started running up against how the teams usually do their thing. The first was the Spygate scandal, where the New England Patriots were spying on other teams to figure out their plays. EVERY sports team does this (in the NBA, Pat Rielly was so paranoid, he made his team practice only on indoor courts with almost no spectator seating), and people said Goodell was going to far. Then came Bountygate, where the New Orleans Saints were accused of putting bounties on other players. Once again, everyone does this. The massive penalties Goodell instituted were struck down on appeal by Paul Tagliabue, his predecessor.
Since the Saints incident, Goodell has become soft. He has declined to discipline a number of football people, or given them slaps on the wrist. So how would he go here?
On Thursday, Goodell suspended Rice for the first two games of the season, a punishment the NFL Network referred to as "the Iron Fist of the NFL". Alice Jessop, whose Twitter feed is @RulingSports, put it best -- "Knock a woman unconscious: 2 game suspension. Smoke marijuana: 4 game suspension." In fact, Josh Gordon is looking at being suspended the entire season for pot. Antwan Odom got four games for taking one of his wife's diet pills. Terrell Pryor got a five game suspension for getting free tattoos back in college. Kami Mattioli quipped, "I wonder if the NFL are going to make Ray Rice's wife apologize for him having to miss two games."
Now, we get to Stephen A. Smith. Smith is one of two blowhard hosts on ESPN's First Take (the other being former Chicago sportswriter Skip Bayless, who has taken his talent for saying stupid shit to prove how right he is and gone to a whole new level. Believe me, the biggest shock is that someone managed to outchump Bayless). Smith initially started off by saying that a man has "no business putting [his] hands on a woman." Okay, so far, so good. But he eventually comes around to the stupid part -- that women have an obligation to not give men a reason to beat them. No shit. "But what I've tried to employ the female members of my family...is that, again -- and I've done this all my life -- let's make sure we don't do anything to provoke wrong actions." Say whaaaaaaat?!? "If we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn't negate the fact that they already put their hands on you. So let's try to make sure that we can do our part in making sure that doesn't happen." Oh, please. Do go on. "I think that just talking about what guys shouldn't do, we got to also make sure that you can do your part to do WHATEVER you can do to try to make sure it doesn't happen." "We have to make sure we learn as much as we can about the elements of provocation."
Hear that, ladies? You get beat because you don't blow your guy or he has a bad day or you cook something a tiny bit wrong (I've seen it happen), you provoked him and should have tried harder so that you friends and law enforcement didn't have to rush to your rescue.
The cherry on this little "blame the victim" sundae? "It's important to recognize and reiterate we do not know what happened...inside that elevator. There is absolutely nothing...that has ever brought [Rice's] integrity into question until now. He deserves the benefit of the doubt."
Michelle Beadle is the host of ESPN's SportsNation, and she went to Twitter with all guns blazing. "So I was just forced to watch this morning's First Take. A) I'll never feel clean again B) I'm now aware that I can provoke my own beating." "I'm thinking about wearing a miniskirt this weekend...I'd hate to think what I'd be asking for by doing so @stephenasmith. #dontprovoke" "I was in an abusive relationship once. I'm aware that men & women can both be the abuser. To spread a message that we not 'provoke' is wrong" "Violence isn't the victim's issue. It's the abuser's. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting. Walk. Away."
Smith started spinning. He first sent a series of Tweets intended to clarify his stance. This means he reiterated his points, hoping to get people to understand. Sorry, but when you say abuse victims bring it on themselves, you don't get understanding. He then released an official statement apologizing, but no one's buying it. And for good reason, too.
Our reactions tell the world about us. Smith revealed way more than he should have.