The NFL, Ray Rice, and Keith Olbermann – I Accuse Us

The NFL, Ray Rice, and Keith Olbermann – I Accuse Us September 10, 2014

A second video surfaced on Monday that confirmed what many already knew to be true – Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked out his future wife, Janay Palmer, with a punch to the head in a hotel elevator last February.

The first video of the incident surfaced a few months ago. It should Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer from the elevator. Later at a press conference, Rice admitted that his actions were “inexcusable” and that the couple were in counseling.

For “inexcusably” beating his fiancé, Rice was originally suspended for just two games and fined $529,411.

After this second video emerged, the Ravens immediately released Rice from the team and NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell suspended him indefinitely.

According to many, it’s too little, too late.

ESPN analyst Keith Olbermann gives voice to public opinion. He accuses everyone involved in the case for covering up the assault.

“I accuse Prosecutors McClain and Ruburton and Judge Donio…”

“I accuse President Cass and General Manager Newsome of Baltimore (Ravens)…”

“I accuse Rodger Goodell…”

“I accuse Ray Rice…”

At this point, my mind turned to René Girard’smimetic theory and I felt a little uncomfortable. Girard points out that the Hebrew word satan means accuser. The satanic trap that we fall into is making accusations against one another. Now, there are situations, including this one, where accusations are justified. But we need to be careful when we make accusations. Accusations are mimetic; they are imitative and we can get swept up in a cultural frenzy of hatred against individuals. Hating and accusing others often leads to self-deception: by blaming someone else for problems, we can avoid examining our own complicityfor ills of our personal and cultural dilemmas.

As Olbermann continued to accuse more and more people in this case, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was actually doing something more than just accusing individuals. He accused men and women; he accused white people and black people; he accused the NFL, a judge, and lawyers. Indeed, this case of domestic violence is the result of a huge cover up that’s bigger than any individual, bigger than the NFL, bigger than race, bigger than gender, and bigger than any court system.

It’s bigger because it’s about us, which is why I appreciated what Olbermann said next:

“And I accuse us…all of us.”

This, I think, is the only way to make an accusation with any authenticity. Violence infects each of us and each of us needs to take responsibility for our own violent impulses. The words God gave to Cain are the words God gives to each of us: “sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

We must take personal responsibility for the violence that lurks within us AND we must take personal responsibility for the systemic violence that permeates our culture. The NFL itself is part of a culture of violence that tries to control violence with rules and regulations. The impact of violent hits in the NFL causes severe harm to its players. Even the official NFL website calls them “victims.” There’s an inherent problem with the NFL’s use of violence. In fact, it’s a problem we all have with violence – we can’t control violence; violence controls us.

We need to take responsibility for violence. But we cannot take personal responsibility by simply accusing others. After all, Jesus asked “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?”

Why do we do it? Because pointing out the speck in our neighbor’s eye feels really good! It allows us to unite against them and to project all our own violent tendencies upon them. Ray Rice gives us all someone to hate, which makes us feel like we are good human beings.

What a horrible human being! I hope he never returns to the NFL! I hope he spends years in jail!

Maybe we should hope for something more. Maybe we should hope that Ray Rice is able to take responsibility for his actions and be transformed. Maybe we should hope that Janay Palmer is able to see that she deserves so much more. And maybe we should not only hope for, but also work for the day when we take responsibility for our personal and cultural tendencies toward violence and transform them into nonviolent ways of peace and reconciliation.

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