Monday, September 08, 2014

So You Want To Compare Ray Rice to Lawrence Phillips?

When TMZ released the elevator video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice repeatedly assaulting then-fiance Janay Palmer, it confirmed everything that we should have expected to have occurred last February. The NFL and the Ravens tried to minimize the case all spring and summer, suspending Rice for just two games initially.  But the new video eliminates any doubt as to what happened that night, and forced the Ravens and the NFL to put Rice's football career on ice.

That's led people to compare Rice to former Nebraska I-back Lawrence Phillips, who infamously drug an ex-girlfriend down the stairs in 1995.
Back then, Tom Osborne was roundly criticized for playing Lawrence Phillips, even though Phillips was, in fact, suspended for half of the season (six games). It led to the infamous ambush by Bernard Goldberg that riled the entire state against CBS, who was Goldberg's employer at that time.  At that time, the national perception was that Osborne didn't punish Phillips at all, and that Phillips played because Osborne wanted to win "at all costs."

Clearly, both parts of that argument are false.  There was a six game suspension, and as Florida learned, Nebraska didn't need Lawrence Phillips to win a title in 1995.  (I still chuckle at David Letterman's "Nebraska just scored again" joke the next night on CBS's Late Night.)

What Osborne should have been criticized for was suspending for ONLY six games.  It should have been a permanent dismissal from the team.  I understand Osborne's motives in the case; he hoped that by giving Phillips an opportunity to return, he could somehow reform Phillips.  Sadly, that never happened, and Osborne now regrets that decision.  But a six game suspension was not sufficient for what Phillips did.  I felt that way in 1995; I never cheered for Phillips upon his return.  That ban should have been permanent.

So if you are going to compare Ray Rice to Lawrence Phillips, fine. Since we don't have any video evidence of the Phillips assault, we can't say which attack was worse.  We don't need to:  both are horrible and inexcusable.  Lawrence Phillips should have never played football again.

Ray Rice shouldn't play football again either.

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