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What do you stand for?

There has been much hype and coverage about the recent Ray Rice/domestic violence issue. Without re-hashing too much of things, the salient points are:
Ray Rice is an NFL football player who plays (played) for the Baltimore Ravens• He was brought up on charges for domestic violence.

• The league that he plays in, the NFL, waited to see what the courts would decide before they did anything.

• He was indicted on a charge of 3rd degree aggravated assault and based on the indictment, Rice was suspended for 2 games by the league.

• There was a lot of public outcry from fans that this was not a long enough suspension. To compare, athletes that use performance enhancing drugs all receive an automatic 4 game suspension for a 1st time offence.

• The commissioner of the league later admitted that he goofed on the suspension (it wasn’t long enough) and quickly implemented stiffer penalties for future domestic violence (player conduct) violations. (Automatic 6 game suspension).

• Yesterday, a video of the incident (which showed Rice assaulting his wife), became publically available. In a word, it is disturbing. Rice essentially punches his wife and knocks her unconscious in an elevator and then drags her out by her hair. Because of this video, more public backlash ensued.

• The league, which hadn’t seen (or even previously asked for) the video, promptly suspended Rice indefinitely. His team, the Baltimore Ravens, immediately released (terminated with pay) him from their team.

StopThis obviously won’t be the end of this story as Rice decides if he will appeal his suspension and/or if the players union will intervene on his behalf and challenge the league on whether or not they can even change the suspension/suspend him indefinitely. Regardless, my concern with this whole situation is not so much with the league and its commissioner but with Rice’s employer, the Baltimore Ravens. While the league goofed with the initial suspension by going WAY too light on such a serious issue as domestic violence, they quickly copped to this error and implemented stiffer penalties for future offenses. (Yes, the league could have asked for the video before but didn’t for some reason.) So as the governing body, their initial response was not the right one; however, they are not a court of law so they can change their decision/ruling, etc. and suspending him indefinitely was the right move.

My greater concern is with his employer, the Ravens. They chose to remain mostly silent on the issue up until yesterday. That is, they were content to let the judicial system met out its punishment to Rice and then let the league do the same in turn. At no point in time did the Ravens seemingly want to thoroughly look into this issue themselves. They too didn’t ask for video of the incident, which begs the question, what do they stand for? Yes, I know that they spoke to Rice who I am sure gave them a watered down version of what really happened, but surely as an employer, the Ravens have their own code of conduct that governs how they expect their employees to act? Surely based on what they heard and found out and should have asked (i.e. for the video), they could have made their own determination that Ray Rice was not someone that they wanted employed with and representing their organization. Now, the interesting thing is that Rice is one of their top players. I can only wonder if he was player #53 on the 53 man roster if the Ravens first response would have been different.

Yes, the Ravens finally did the right thing by releasing him from their team, but that is only after the court of public opinion AND a very damning piece of video evidence came to light. They could have terminated Rice’s contract before this. (Essentially terminate him with pay). They could have stood up and said that ANY type of violence against women is unacceptable and as such, they will not employ someone who has conducted themselves in such a way. I don’t know what values the Ravens organization has or what criteria they choose to govern themselves by; all I know is that at this moment, I personally am not sure as to what they stand for as a company. They could have made a stronger statement against domestic violence by terminating Rice earlier on in this process after their own investigation. At the end of the day, it ultimately was never a question of guilt or innocence from Rice; it became an issue or matter of ‘severity.’

I challenge each of us in our roles and with our organizations to think about what we stand for and how we would govern ourselves in such a situation. Would you have responded differently? Would you have continued to employ someone who conducted themselves this way? How does that reflect upon you as an organization? What do you stand for? What does your company stand for? For me, this is all about look to your personal and organizational values to guide your decision making. As an HR Pro representing your company, how do you want to be known and what do you want to be known for?  How would you lead your organization if faced with an issue like this?  What do you want to be known for? If you can’t answer these questions and/or if you don’t have these personal or organizational values to help guide your decision making, then perhaps you may find yourself in the same situation as the Baltimore Ravens.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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3 Responses

  1. Very good points, Scott. I wonder how different the reaction would have been if there were no video? In many ways, the video helped the cause. Too many of these cases either received less media attention or less punishment because no video existed. It just would be great if teams (aka employers) would take action before it appeared that public outcry forced them to do so.

  2. […] Google any big named free agent that has left New England or Baltimore (despite the Ray Rice issues) in the last 10 years and see if they have gone on to similar or greater success. Trust me, you […]

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