The NFL has had six months to meaningfully discipline Ray Rice for knocking out his then-fiancée in an elevator. But the league didn't fulfill the "meaningful" part of that until it saw the knockout punch in a new video posted by TMZ Sports on Monday.
It was another reactive move from commissioner Roger Goodell, and this brand of after-the-fact justice characterizes the way he has approached the issue of domestic violence all along. The league's initial two-game suspension was met with outrage, and only then did the league put together a comprehensive policy with standards in place.
The policy was set. The NFL had moved on. Rice was slated to play.
Then came the other elevator video.
In this one, Rice and his then-fiancée Janay Palmer get into the elevator, appear to disagree, and he lands a left hook that sends her to the floor, hitting her head on a metal railing on the way down.
On Monday, after TMZ posted it, the NFL said the league had requested the video from prosecutors in the aggravated assault case, but hadn't been given it. This contradicts what two league sources had previously told me at the time the two-game suspension was announced, which was that the NFL had access to all the evidence that the prosecutors did.
Even if the league hadn't seen the actual footage until it was leaked, it should have had a pretty good idea of what was in there. A police report said that Rice struck her with his hand. Then we had the video of him dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator. Rice has also admitted that he hit her, and used the term "domestic violence" when talking about the issue in his news conference.
Tonight Rice is out of a job. The Ravens cut him, and other teams have been notified that any proposed contracts with Rice would need to be approved by the league.
But a video shouldn't have been the final straw. Rice should have been suspended based on his action -- rendering his partner unconscious by an act of physical violence.
Not because of public outcry. Not because she is a woman and he is a man. Not because the league needed to atone for past mistakes.
He should have been suspended because the blow itself was a violation of the personal conduct policy.
So much of what is domestic violence takes place behind closed doors. There is rarely video proof of a punch, and all too often, much of the response is the same flood of banal platitudes and tacit victim blaming that takes place. How many characterized Janay Rice as the instigator, a fists-of-fury trope that simply wasn't borne out by the video? Other victims get the same treatment, without a video to document a devastating blow to the jaw. Those victims will never see the proper justice.
The Rice video we saw today now creates another problem for the NFL, because it weakens the commissioner at a moment when he was poised to make real headway on the issue. The framework of outreach that has been put in place has a chance to take this message into high schools and colleges.
The lack of legal consequences for Rice can also start a valuable conversation about lack of prosecution for domestic violence-related crimes in some parts of the country.
That can still happen, but there is a lot of damage control to do in the meantime.
The NFL's credibility can't withstand much more of this.