Rice video has profound impact on Seahawks’ Carroll

RENTON — The past week has changed the way Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll views domestic violence and the athletes involved in such crimes.

He also knows it shouldn’t have taken a video of an NFL star punching his then-fiancee in an elevator for such change to come about when it comes to his views on domestic violence, particularly when it comes to making personnel decisions regarding players who have been charged with or convicted of such crimes.

“It will never be the same,” Carroll said. “Unfortunately I’ve got to admit my awareness is different than it was, and I don’t think it will ever be the same as it was. I’m glad that I can say that now, because hopefully we can maybe head off any kind of issue that could come up in the future.”

Carroll, like so many others, knew before this week that former Ravens running back Ray Rice had been involved in some sort of domestic violence incident in an Atlantic City casino in February. And Carroll, like so many others, still was stunned by what he saw when TMZ released a video of Rice knocking Janay Palmer, now his wife, unconscious with a punch.

For months we’ve all known that Rice dragged an unconscious Palmer out of that casino elevator, so it was clear something awful happened. But Monday’s video changed things.

“Unfortunately we had to see an incident that elevated our awareness to really get to the right place,” Carroll said. “It’s unfortunate we have to learn the hard way sometimes, but I think that’s really what I would say. I talked to the team about it today, we talked about the serious nature of it. … Unfortunately we had to learn that way.”

Unfortunate is an understatement here. This outrage about Rice, and domestic violence as a whole is long overdue, this reaction is coming far, far too late. And yes, unfortunately it took people seeing such a horrific act on video to have the reaction we should all have every time we hear about a man beating his wife, fiancee or girlfriend.

Our legal system routinely fails domestic violence victims, and yes, in some cases so does the NFL, handing out little or no punishment to players who have been charged with such crimes, only to later plead to a lesser charge.

And even after the latest bombshell in the Rice story, an AP report that the NFL did indeed get a copy five months ago of the tape it denies having seen before Monday, it sadly is completely plausible that the NFL didn’t go out of its way to get all of the information in this case. Because if the court system was going to let Rice clear his name by going through a pretrial intervention program after knocking his fiancee out with a punch, and if the victim, as is often the case in domestic violence situations, isn’t cooperative, then the league isn’t going to be motivated to dig deeper. Why shine a brighter light on an ugly situation that would only make the league and a team and its star player look worse when it can all be swept under the rug with a paltry two-game suspension?

Well here’s why: because it’s time that the NFL and sports and most importantly all of us as humans finally start to take domestic violence much more seriously. This is nothing new, neither in the NFL, nor in sports, nor in society. Sadly this isn’t even close to being the worst act of domestic violence committed by an NFL athlete. Former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth was convicted in 2001 of conspiracy to commit murder for hiring someone to kill Cherica Adams, who was pregnant with his child. In 2012, Kansas City’s Jovan Belcher shot and killed girlfriend Kasandra Perkins before killing himself outside the team’s practice facility later that day.

Yet despite those extreme examples, NFL rosters, Seattle’s included, include players year after year with domestic violence issues in their history.

That needs to change, and Carroll’s words Wednesday strongly indicate they’ll do things differently in the future. The Seahawks were able to sign cornerback A.J. Jefferson this offseason because the Vikings released him after he was arrested for allegedly choking his girlfriend. Jefferson is no longer with the team having been released following an injury, but if Carroll is true to his word, those signings can’t happen in the future unless that player is cleared of wrongdoing.

Let’s hope that what comes out of having such a high profile athlete in this country’s biggest sport commit such a heinous act is that leagues and the people like Carroll who make roster decisions can pause and consider the message it sends when a convicted wife-beater gets second, third and fourth chances because he happens to have a good 40-yard dash time.

It shouldn’t take a video for this change to happen, but if that’s what we all needed for a turning point to occur, so be it.

“Hopefully the process and the visibility will bring an awareness throughout our society and to whoever’s watching and listening, that we need to take care of each other much better and we need to respond accordingly,” Carroll said.

It’s a shame this conversation is only happening on this scale now that we’ve seen the video of a very famous man knocking a woman unconscious. Imagine what happens every day that goes unseen and unreported. That’s worthy of just as much outrage, and it’s why so many people, Carroll included by his own admission, need a different level of awareness going forward when it comes to domestic violence.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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