The National Football League taught Luke Casey and his girlfriend an important lesson. Mr. Casey is the star college football player and Columbia native charged with assault last week after witnesses reported seeing him knock a 19-year-old woman to the ground and repeatedly hit her with a closed fist. The woman is just some woman. She's not important. And she knows it. So does Luke Casey.
They both know she is not important because just a few weeks earlier the NFL told her so, loudly and clearly, when it gave Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice not so much a slap on the wrist as a love tap in the form of a two-week suspension ("Roger Goodell defends two-game suspension of Ravens' Ray Rice," Aug. 1). Earlier this year, Ravens' leadership publicly bemoaned the fact that Mr. Rice had to take a "public relations hit," commiserating with Mr. Rice over the bad publicity he took for having had the bad luck to be caught on video dragging his then-fiancee out of an elevator like a bag of laundry.
Is it any wonder then that a young man following in Mr. Rice's professional footsteps would also feel safe in mirroring his violent, misogynistic behavior? And is it a surprise that the young woman who Mr. Casey is charged with pummeling into submission is now trying to claim that she wasn't hit at all? That she somehow fumbled, fell, and blackened her own eye?
We have personal experience with what being beaten and bloodied by someone who is supposed to love you can do to your self-esteem. We have nothing but sympathy for this young woman, and for the victim of Ray Rice's anger.
But that sympathy is more than dwarfed by the disgust we feel for the manner in which the NFL is handling this situation. The league's business is built and sustained by hero worship, the idolization of athletes they help to ingrain into young boys at the earliest age. Yet, this is an organization that punishes a player with a four-week suspension for smoking pot and only two weeks for hitting a woman. The message this sends is loud and clear: Men, particularly big, famous, rich men, matter. Women don't.
We have made great strides toward changing the laws that govern using one's significant other as a punching bag, but we have not changed the culture that says it's OK to do so. Until that changes, nothing really will.
Connie DeJuliis, Y. Maria Martinez and Monyka Berrocosa
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