The courts refused to punish Ray Rice. The NFL did. Nevertheless, the White House has chided the league, rather than judges or the politicians who appoint them, for not exhibiting “zero tolerance” toward players involved in hitting women or children.
“The NFL has an obligation not only to their fans but to the American people to properly discipline anyone involved in domestic violence or child abuse and more broadly, gain control of the situation,” an anonymous White House official told CBS News. “Many of these professional athletes are marketed as role models to young people and so their behavior does have the potential to influence these young people, and it’s one of the many reasons it’s important that the league get a handle on this and have a zero tolerance.”
A study conducted this summer found the arrest rate of NFL players at just 13 percent of their societal peer group’s arrest rate. The domestic violence arrest rate for NFL players stood at slightly more than half of the societal rate.
While players may strike women less than fans, the media focus on athletes, and the arrest of two of the league’s biggest stars, has created the widespread impression that criminal behavior runs rampant among NFL players. The league has faced intense criticism in the wake of the release of video showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching the woman he later married and the indictment last week of 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson on a child-abuse charge in Texas.
The league has imposed new suspension policies on domestic violence and compiled a panel to advise the NFL on the issue in response to the criticism. The NFL tagged former Obama Administration official Cynthia C. Hogan, who championed gun-control efforts in the White House, as its new senior vice president of public policy and government affairs earlier this week. The hire did little to stop the sniping at the league from the administration.