Something has been made strikingly clear in recent weeks: the power of public opinion to sway decision-makers. Two of the National Football League’s premier running backs face stiff discipline for domestic violence. Ray Rice was released by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely after video surfaced of him punching his then-fiancée. The Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson has been deactivated and charged with beating his 4-year-old son with a switch and leaving bloody welts on the boy’s body. The teams and the league have taken action, but they very well might not have if the public had not made itself loudly heard.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and team officials could have taken swift action to suspend both players pending legal investigations and due process. Instead they hesitated, seemingly hoping they could keep these stars on the field and reap the financial benefit. Only when the media and the American people, primarily through social media, rose up and cried “foul” (often using rather foul language) did the men in power relent.
It seems to be a victory of justice for the populous, but it gives me pause. I am glad these two men are being dealt with in firm and cautious ways, and that the law is being brought to bear. But I am uncomfortable with how it came about. Does the end justify the means? Is public outrage a reliable method of bringing about justice and upholding what is right?
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