Why NFL teams rarely take a moral stand

On Friday, the Baltimore Ravens helped their star running back, Ray Rice, apologize for a February incident in which Rice allegedly knocked out his then fiancee Janay. Since that time, the two have wed.

With the apology tour now in full swing, it’s not surprising to see the Ravens facilitating the apology process. After all, Rice isn’t some random player that touches the ball on occasion. He’s a major part of the Ravens’ offensive attack, and he’s facing a possible suspension from the NFL as a result of the aforementioned incident.

Much outrage has been directed at both Rice and the Ravens as a result of his standard “I got caught doing wrong, but I’m not a terrible person” apology. The Ravens have been thrown under the bus because they’re not taking a moral stand against Rice’s actions. Although it may be sad commentary on the motives that drive the NFL, it’s not surprising that an NFL team would do its best to protect one of its star players.


To understand why teams rarely take a moral stance we have to consider what drives their business. If the Ravens decide to cut Rice and distance themselves from his actions, they may gain a few supporters that applaud that stance. The key point here is that they may gain a few fans.

Without Rice, the Ravens won’t win as many games as they’ll win with him. Everyone knows that. If the Ravens don’t make the playoffs, they’ll sell far less merchandise, and they can’t justify higher ticket sales. The cost of cutting a star player, in simple terms, far outweighs any goodwill earned by taking the moral high ground.

To further explore the point, let’s take a look at the Washington Redskins’ nickname. Sure, the name is offensive to Native Americans, but the team’s brand is dependent on that name. The Redskins would lose way too much money on any change they’d make to justify the switch from an economic standpoint.

That’s where the commissioner comes in.

In regard to the Redskins’ name, don’t expect Roger Goodell to make any moves. The franchise is owned by Daniel Snyder, and Goodell will almost certainly let him keep the name intact until Snyder decides it’s time to change it. In regard to Rice, Goodell has a lot more to work with.

The Ravens won’t penalize Rice for his actions, but the NFL can and should. If Goodell wants to hold players to a higher standard, Rice has to be hit hard. These are the types of situations that require oversight from the commissioner. The Ravens are taking logical steps to ensure they continue to win games. No one should be surprised that the Ravens are in Rice’s corner on this one. Goodell is in place to stay above that fray, and in some cases actually take the moral high ground for the NFL. That’s what needs to happen here.

About Shane Clemons

Shane Clemons came from humble beginnings creating his own Jaguars blog before moving on to SBNation as a featured writer for the Jaguars. He then moved to Bloguin where he briefly covered the AFC South before taking over Bloguin's Jaguars blog. Since the inception of This Given Sunday, Shane has served as an editor for the site, doing his best not to mess up a good thing.