1. The NFL’s Image Problem
On Feb. 15, 2014, Ravens running back Ray Rice and his then-fiancé Janay Palmer were both arrested and charged with assault stemming from an incident in an elevator at Revel Casino in Atlantic City. At the time, only the end of that altercation – with Rice dragging Palmer’s unconscious body into the lobby – was made public. In July, Rice was suspended two games by the NFL for his involvement in the incident, but when video of him actually knocking her out with a left hook surfaced, he and the league were in much hotter water.
In September, Rice was suspended indefinitely by an embarrassed NFL and embattled commissioner Roger Goodell, who didn’t make matters any better with his performance in a regrettable press conference in which he was grilled by outraged reporters. The NFL was forced to answer tough questions, rethink its policy on domestic abuse, and change the way it does business. The league emerged with a serious image problem, which was only worsened before the 2014 season was even a month old when Vikings RB Adrian Peterson was indicted for child abuse after beating his son with a stick.
The NFL has always had a longer police blotter than any other major professional sports league, but 2014 represented the breaking point for a league that the public was not willing to issue a free pass to anymore. With an ever-growing rap sheet of drug and violent crime arrests, the NFL was shamed in 2014. But despite the public relations nightmare, its popularity and television ratings have never been higher.
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