To be a female football fan is an uneasy bargain. Often women can participate in the camaraderie with little thought to gender, politics or power. Other times the National Football League makes a controversial decision that forces women to question their loyalty. The latest example? It punished Ray Rice, a Baltimore Ravens player accused of domestic violence, with a two-day game suspension.
Last February, police arrested the talented and well-liked Baltimore Ravens running back for assaulting his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City casino elevator. Rice, 27, allegedly punched and knocked out Janay Palmer during an altercation; she was also arrested. Rice pleaded not-guilty and his wife did not want to pursue the case. But a surveillance camera recorded the aftermath — Rice trying to move her limp body into the hallway, standing over her as she lay facedown on the floor.
It's an agonizing scene, and many predicted the NFL would harshly sanction Rice, particularly since the league has worked hard to transform its female fans into fanatics. But when the league recently delivered Rice's punishment — the two-game suspension at the cost of a half million dollars — it sparked a weeklong outcry.
It sent a message to fans, particularly women, about the NFL's priorities and values — and it was far from pretty.