Ray Rice incident strikes chord with Aspen-area women | AspenTimes.com
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Ray Rice incident strikes chord with Aspen-area women

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times
Former Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Rice holds hands with his wife, Janay Palmer, as they arrive at Atlantic County Criminal Courthouse in Mays Landing, N.J., on May 1.
AP File | AP

Other incidents of DOMESTIC violence

• On Oct. 30, 2013, Colorado avalanche goalie Simon Varlamov was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault after his girlfriend told police Varlamov knocked her down with a kick, stomped on her chest and dragged her by her hair. He then told her that if they were still in Russia, he would have beaten her more.

Two days after the arrest, Varlomov’s attorney said the Avalanche were supporting him and that the judge granted him permission to leave the state. Prosecutors had the case dropped and said they couldn’t prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

• In December 2012, former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his child, before shooting himself in the parking lot of Arrowhead Stadium.

• On Feb. 14, 2013, Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, whom he had fatally shot at his home in the early hours of that morning. (Verdict coming tomorrow)

• In June 2013, WNBA player Chamique Holdsclaw pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and other charges after she fired a gun into the car of an ex-girlfriend.

News of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee, now-wife Janay Palmer in Atlantic City, New Jersey, garnered plenty of negative attention toward the National Football League.

Originally, the only video the public saw was the star running back dragging an unconscious Palmer by her shoulders from an elevator. The February incident was described by Rice’s attorney as a “minor physical altercation,” but that was before the actual video of Rice punching Palmer emerged Monday.

The NFL originally suspended Rice for two games. That suspension changed to Rice being released by the Ravens and the NFL suspending him indefinitely once the video of the assault was released by TMZ.

Amiee White Beazley is a Basalt resident who grew up in New England with a father who loved football. He took her to summer practices and the two would watch football together on weekends.

“Ask anyone around here,” she said. “I’m a really intense football fan.”

But the past couple of years, Beazley has seen a change in the NFL and what the sport represents to her.

“This whole thing with Ray Rice has pushed me over the edge as a representation of what professional athletes are able to get away with and what they think they can get away with. Many professional athletes, especially in the NFL, think they’re above the law.”

Beazley, a writer who frequently contributes to The Aspen Times, said the Rice incident would change how she watches the NFL. She won’t spend four or five hours watching games on Sundays anymore. Instead, she’ll read about games online and find other things to do during the NFL season.

“It’s sad,” Beazley said. “I grew up with football, and it was something we enjoyed as a family, but that’s changed now. I truly believe the NFL knew exactly what happened with Ray Rice. If they actually thought his fiancee was just drunk and he was pulling her out of the elevator then they’re idiots.

“We all knew she had been assaulted; we just didn’t have proof. It all goes back to the culture of what is acceptable in the NFL — sexism, racism and cruelty to animals. This overindulgent, angry, violent culture is something that I can’t give my money or my time to anymore. They get passes because they’re amazing athletes, but they’re not amazing people — and that’s important to me.”

Jill Gruenberg is the advocacy and prevention program director at Response, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Gruenberg said the NFL deserves credit for raising awareness about cruelty to dogs, stemming from the Michael Vick dogfighting operation, and cancer awareness. She’s now hoping the NFL can use the Rice situation to do the same with domestic violence.

“That’s my hope,” Gruenberg said. “Up to now, the NFL has been very reactionary as opposed to actually trying to take action and be a leader towards domestic violence. I do think there are definite opportunities here. There are upsides and downsides when a big event like this happens. It does open that door a bit for there to be some conversation that hopefully leads to action.

“Look what the NFL has done with breast-cancer awareness and how involved the NFL is with that subject. They’ve sent such a message about how traditionally breast cancer was thought of as a women’s issue, but men can and do care about it, can get involved and can be supportive allies to the cause. I absolutely see the possibility for the NFL to play the same role with domestic violence. They have an opportunity to be a leader in bringing education about relationship violence into youth coaching programs. … The NFL could really be leading the charge and not just seeming like they’re one step behind in how they respond. If we want to solve domestic violence problems, guys not only need to care about the subject they need to be part of the conversation. If they aren’t then I don’t think we’re really getting anywhere close to a solution.”

Beazley said she may only be one person, but she’s seen the NFL’s push to capture women fans with football clothing and paraphernalia designed to appeal to women.

“I not buying their products anymore,” she said. “No more jerseys, and I’m done watching the NFL commercials. I’m not going to endorse the NFL. That’s the only thing that will hurt them from my standpoint. If that gives me some weight, so be it. If enough people do that, the NFL will listen. I’m tired of what the NFL is feeding us, and it’s not enjoyable anymore.”

Rice incident is just the latest

Stories about domestic violence and professional athletes aren’t a new phenomenon.

With social media now spreading news faster and to more locations than ever before, the stories are becoming harder to ignore, which is what most professional sports organizations seem to want.

“When there’s bad news concerning an athlete, teams used to just hide the facts or try and ignore them until the situation was forgotten,” Beazley said. “Out of sight, out of mind. Now teams aren’t getting away with that.”

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com


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