I Expect Boys to Learn More Than To Avoid Being Convicted
When the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens first began exploring a response to Ray Rice’s assault of his then-fiancée, I encountered many people who thought that Rice’s employers were overreaching in stepping into the fray prior to criminal adjudication. Once the criminal proceedings resulted in a pre-trial intervention program and the NFL followed up with a 2-game suspension, I then met many people who told me that it was wrong for the NFL to further punish a man that had already faced a criminal trial. Since the NFL relented to public pressure and suspended Rice indefinitely, I have come across quite a few people who are enraged that the NFL has subjected Rice to “double jeopardy.”
The underlying thread in all of these encounters is that people don’t believe that the NFL should enforce a standard of conduct above and beyond that required by the law. I believe in redemption as much as anybody but I also find nothing wrong with a private employer holding an employee to a higher standard than that enforced by courts. For one, I don’t think that there is anything exotic about the NFL doing this as I would think that most educational institutions, public agencies, and private employers have heightened expectations of community members. For example, in my own line of work, I am a perfectly aware that I can engage in any number of activities that would get me removed from my job that are not illegal, including many in which the mere appearance of impropriety would get me in hot water. Let’s not pretend that the NFL is breaking from social convention in expecting more of its employees.
Secondly, a bar of not being convicted is a fairly low one as it concerns intimate violence. I would think that most of us would want to raise boys and young men to uphold personal codes of conduct that expect more of men than to simply avoid interactions with intimate partners for which they will be convicted. Therefore, if a private employer wants to model a standard that exceeds that expected by law, then they are within their rights to do so. This makes all the more sense if that employer happens to have the tremendous cultural capital wielded by the NFL and whose employees are adored and emulated by thousands of boys throughout the country.