Ray Rice won’t play Saturday night when the New England Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Terrell Suggs will.
That dichotomy speaks volumes about the NFL and its reactions to handling cases of domestic abuse among its players. The only difference between the allegations against Rice and Suggs is that there happened to be an elevator tape in Atlantic City.
The fact that Suggs will suit up for the Ravens this weekend is questionable enough, as is the egregious celebration of a man, playfully known as “Sizzle,” who has been accused of a pair of horrific incidents involving his now-wife, Candace Williams. Case in point: NBC’s Chris Collinsworth guffawed over Suggs’ role as a “jokester” during Saturday night’s broadcast of the Ravens-Steelers wild card playoff game. It wasn’t much later that the network ran one of those pandering domestic abuse spots preaching “No More.”
The level of hypocrisy is absolutely deafening, which isn’t surprising considering this is the NFL and these are the Baltimore Ravens.
While Rice sits in NFL limbo, suspended from the NFL and released by the Ravens only after security camera footage showed the running back punching his now-wife, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City casino elevator. He is an outcast, a player that seemingly few teams would seem interested in pursuing for next season both because of the incident and the league’s coverup wounds that would be re-opened with him back in action.
But Suggs, he keeps on playing, excelling for Baltimore, ultimately raising the question why the linebacker isn’t out of a job as well.
In December, 2009, Williams accused Suggs of knocking her to the ground, “grabbing her neck and holding an open bottle of bleach over her” after arguing over tickets to an upcoming game between the Ravens and Steelers.
According to the Baltimore Sun, “Suggs said [Williams] had hurt his arm and began yelling obscenities at her, and Williams said she spat on his chest. She wrote that she heard one of Suggs' friends, who was present in the home, say, ‘Oh no, Sizz [Suggs’s nickname], come on, don't do that.’
“Williams wrote that Suggs used an obscenity and said he was going to ‘drown [her] with this bleach.’ She put her hands over the cap, but the cleaner spilled onto her and their son, she wrote. He then told her to get out of the house, dressed and left for the game, she wrote.
"In an area in which petitioners are asked to describe ‘past injuries,’ Williams lists ‘busted lips, broken nose, black eyes, bruises,’ though she did not give dates or say how such injuries occurred.”
Suggs was ultimately not charged with the crime, even though a judge granted a protective order. According to Slate’s Josh Levin, in a piece entitled, “Why Is Terrell Suggs Still in the NFL?”, “A social worker also said that allegations that Suggs had abused the couple’s son could not be substantiated. A short time later, Williams withdrew a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the Ravens star and asked for the protective order to be rescinded, as the couple was attempting to reconcile.”
Of course, it only took three years for Williams to seek another protective order. Suggs filed his own complaint asking for custody of the couple’s two children, claiming that Williams “is verbally abusive to the children, smokes marijuana while they're in the home, and utilizes corporal punishment against them.” After that, Williams alleged that Suggs punched her in the neck, then dragged her alongside a vehicle driving at a “high rate of speed.” As a result of the order, Suggs had to surrender his firearms.
The couple married a few days later.
It doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots of forgiveness in the cases of Williams and Palmer, who have become accustomed to certain lifestyles as a result of being involved with multi-million athletes. Sadly, that is a comfort that becomes difficult to let go of even in cases of domestic assault.
But they are certainly not the only blind eyes in these matters, as the NFL and the Ravens have proven so vociferously. Following the 2009 event, Ravens vice president Kevin Byrne (he of last summer’s infamously nauseating tribute to Ray Rice) said the team had a copy of Williams' petition and reiterated that Suggs "will have his chance to tell his side of the story.” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league would "take a look at it as we would any such matter to try to understand the facts.”
Again in 2012, Byrne told USA Today, via email, “We are aware of the situation” involving Suggs and his soon-to-be-wife.
And then, poof.
Suggs was not fined. He wasn’t suspended. He wasn’t punished in any way possible by the league or the enabling Ravens organization.
From Slate’s Levin:
It’s not just the NFL that didn’t take the allegations of abuse seriously. Suggs’ case shows that without video evidence of an alleged crime, the press will move on, too. While his domestic disputes were covered amply in 2009 and 2012, the football media quickly pivoted to focus on Suggs’ goofy claim that he attended “Ball So Hard University.” Rice is a pariah; Suggs reads mean tweets on Jimmy Kimmel.
Of course, had these charges taken place in the wake of the Rice situation, we’re talking an entirely different approach by the Ravens and the NFL, where perception is king and accountability lags somewhere behind whatever distraction you can bury it behind.
Why is Suggs playing without any form of penance bestowed upon him? How has he manipulated those in the Ravens organization and the lap dog Baltimore media to portray him as a joker, a prankster with a sordid, scary past that gets all but ignored?
The league and its teams can’t go around suspending every player, every time an accusation is levied. But they sure as hell have a responsibility to address each situation and take action when warranted.
In the case of Suggs, the Ravens and the NFL did nothing.
"Everybody knows the history with these two teams," Suggs said in advance of his team’s showdown with the Patriots, a team that the Ravens will face in the playoffs for a fourth time in the past five seasons on Saturday night. "We're going to play a football game. It's the Ravens versus the Patriots. Everybody knows the storylines.”
Well, not all the storylines. Right, Terrell?
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