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What Really Matters in the Ray Rice Saga Is Not the Culpability of the Baltimore Ravens

It's whether the NFL commits to combat domestic violence

Getty Images/Rob Carr

Did the Baltimore Ravens know that Ray Rice punched his then-fiancé in an Atlantic City elevator before TMZ released the in-elevator footage last week? What did Rice initially tell the team and the NFL happened in the elevator? Did head coach John Harbaugh propose releasing Rice when the team first learned of the incident?

These are just some of the questions that are left unanswered after the Ravens put out a strongly worded denial yesterday to last Friday’s blockbuster ESPN report that reconstructed how the NFL and team have addressed the Rice incident. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti also answered questions from the media, talking for 45 minutes and doubting the unnamed sources in the report. "Almost everything in there is anonymous, but it's clear from the subject matter that it's Ray's attorney, it's Ray's agent, it's Ray's friends,” Bisciotti said. Don Van Natta, the ESPN journalist who broke the story, defended his work shortly after Bisciotti finished his press conference.

It’s tough to know whom to believe and there are likely elements of truth in both accounts. But on some disagreements—such as whether Harbaugh suggested releasing Rice—there is no grey area. Someone is lying: either Van Natta’s sources or the Ravens organization. The truth may come out over time. For now, we just don’t know.

In the meantime, we can’t let questions of blame overshadow the need to make progress on the issue of domestic violence. Ultimately, the most important outcome of this incident is not whether Bisciotti is lying or Roger Goodell keeps his job. It’s what Rice, the Ravens and the NFL do to reduce domestic violence in the future. Last week, Goodell announced that the league would support the National Domestic Violence Hotline and National Sexual Violence Resource Center, as well as mandating all team employees receive training on stopping abuse. That’s a good start, but it’s just that—a start. The league should also donate the salaries forfeited by players suspended for abuse to a fund to help domestic violence victims. My colleague Jonathan Cohn has also suggested each team donate money for the fund as well.

It’s easy to get caught up in the Twitter-fueled, frenzy for a scalp. And there are very good reasons to hold Goodell and Co. accountable for what happened under their watch. But if the end result of this controversy is Goodell losing his job, without a major commitment from the NFL to help reduce domestic violence, then we will have missed an opportunity to take some good out of this tragic incident.

Danny Vinik

News from Monday:

TAXES: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that Obama would take executive action to close a loophole that has allowed U.S. firms to reduce their taxes. (John D. McKinnon and Damian Paletta, Wall Street Journal)

OBAMACARE: According to the Department of Health and Human Services, enrollment in Medicaid is now 8 million higher than it was last year at this time. It’s yet one more sign that Obamacare’s expansion of insurance coverage is working. (HHS)

Stories worth reading:

Inequality: Ben Casselman adjusts the new income data for changes in household size and age over the past 15 years. It doesn’t matter: median incomes have still fallen. (FiveThirtyEight)

TV domination: The NFL blows away every other show on television in number of viewers. But the viewership growth has come through a larger female audience—the exact fans the league could lose to the recent domestic violence and child abuse incidents. (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic)

Don’t tell mom: Rachel Cohen argues that the politics of universal pre-K are pretty good for advocates, as long as they talk about what it does for kids and not what it does for working mothers. (American Prospect)

Right-wing conspiracy of the day: It’s all about Hillary Clinton and Saul Alinsky and, sigh, it’s just too ridiculous even to explain. If your really want the details, read Jonathan Chait (New York) or Ed Kilgore (Washington Monthly)

Warning: Cooking the planet may be hazardous to your health: Jason Millman reminds us of the various ways global warming makes people less healthy. (Wonkblog)

Stories we’re watching:

The one-day United Nations Climate Summit takes place in New York City. President Obama’s speech at 12:50 will focus on increasing international support for further action to combat climate change. Plus, we’ll continue monitoring the Rice story.


Rebecca Leber previews the big UN climate summit. Jonathan Cohn interviews economist Betsey Stevenson, who is a member of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, on work-family policies.