Leagues have a responsibility

Football player Ray Rice’s scandal and the way that National Football League (NFL) officials handled it brought to light the dismal relationship between sports, crime and money.

At first, the NFL gave Rice a slap on the wrist, suspending him for a couple of games when it became known that he had struck his then-girlfriend. Then, a video was revealed, in which the player punched his girlfriend, knocking her out, and then dragged her outside the elevator where the incident happened. The NFL decided to expand the punishment indefinitely, faced with outraged public pressure because of the level of domestic violence involved.

The NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, looked very bad, since later it became known that they had all the information for the case from the beginning, and not just part of it, as was initially said.

It is obvious that the NFL chose to minimize the importance of a serious domestic violence incident rather than hurt the team by suspending one of its well-paid stars for misconduct off the field.

The hundreds of millions of dollars that go through professional sports annually, whether in tickets sold, TV rights, sponsorships and more, have clouded the differences between what is right and wrong. At the same time, huge salaries and multimillion-dollar sponsorships demand that athletes set an example of behavior, when their talent is throwing or catching a ball, without necessarily being a good father and husband.

The best news in all of this is that tolerance for domestic violence, racism and drug consumption has come to an end, in football, basketball and baseball, among others.

Hiding, covering up and minimizing criminal or offensive behaviors toward Americans is unacceptable. If there is a crime, the suspect should be treated like everyone else. League officials have a duty toward fans.

The reactions that Rice’s case caused show that for many male and female fans, the way that the players behave off the field matters. Professional sports leagues must pay attention to this loud message of the people if they want to maintain their credibility