President Obama Says Ray Rice "Hopefully A Wake-Up Call" On Domestic Violence, And He's Not Wrong


The high-profile and highly harrowing Ray Rice domestic violence incident has had a profound impact on national awareness of domestic violence. That's to say nothing of the impact it's had on the NFL culture, which has long been criticized for overlooking the scourge of domestic violence — anti-domestic violence PSAs featuring myriad NFL players (though created by an outside advocacy group, not the league) have generated a lot of buzz lately. And Friday, President Obama himself spoke out on the issue: Obama hopes the Ray Rice scandal's a "wake-up call" for the NFL, and for all institutions that don't have coherent procedures for combating and punishing such acts.

Of course, given the outsized exposure and impact of Rice's actions — he knocked his soon-to-be wife Janay unconscious in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino in February — it's proven to be something of a wake-up call for the nation, as well. A chance for all of us all to grapple honestly both with the pervasiveness of domestic violence, and how easily so many people have turned their backs to the crisis. I saw this up close when attending Thanksgiving with my extended family this year — the airing of those aforementioned PSAs had some people commenting on the PSAs' awkwardness and potential to cause discomfort, which is exactly the point they strive to make.

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Obama was speaking to ESPN's Colin Cowherd Friday, in a series of interviews to promote the Affordable Care Act — open enrollment for next year runs through Feb. 15, mind you — when the subject turned to the NFL and their undeniably disastrous handling of the Rice incident.

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As NBC News' Carrie Dann noted, the President's commentary of social and political issues in sports wasn't limited just to Rice, however — he also commented on the surge of athletes embracing their platforms for activism, with numerous NBA players donning "I Can't Breathe" shirts in honor of Eric Garner, the unarmed black man who was choked and killed by NYPD police officer Daniel Pantaleo in July. Pantaleo was not indicted by a grand jury, sparking widespread and dramatic protests.