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Starkey: Goodell's gutless ruling sign of times

| Saturday, July 26, 2014, 10:50 p.m.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice walks off the field after a training camp practice Thursday, July 24, 2014, at the team's practice facility in Owings Mills, Md.

You see the headlines from other countries and shake your head …

• “Pregnant Woman Sentenced to Death in Sudan For Her Religion.” — Amnesty International.

• “Tribal Woman Gang-raped in West Bengal on a Platform For All to See.” — The Times of India.

Insanity, right? The second case resulted in the arrest of 14 men, including a village leader, who'd ordered the gang rape of a 20-year-old tribal woman accused of having relations with a man from outside her community.

How horrifying and hopelessly backward is that? Thank goodness we live in the United States of America, where those things …. well, wait a second.

Is this America?

Is this the 21st century?

I ask, because the degradation-of-women headlines we produce are every bit as stunning and scary as anywhere else. In some ways, given our advantages and alleged advances, they're scarier.

I'm not talking about crazy people doing crazy things. That happens everywhere. I'm talking about institutional madness, cowardice and prejudice. I'm talking about some of the most powerful organizations in this country — the National Football League, for example — turning a blind eye to heinous acts of violence against women.

Congress comes to mind, as well. Check out this headline, from last February on the U.S. website of Amnesty International: “Despite Early Objections, Congress Passes Inclusive Violence Against Women Act.”

Early objections? People were fighting this in 21st century America? The story pointed out that one in three Native American and Alaska Native women will be raped in her lifetime, and “when the perpetrator is a non-Native man — as in 86 percent of cases — tribal authorities have no power to prosecute the perpetrator.”

Amnesty International chief of campaigns and programs Michelle Ringuette issued a statement after the House vote. Spineless NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and important leaders like him should read the first part of it every time they're about to render a verdict on an abuser.

“Women — regardless of where they live, who they are, or where they come from — have the right to live free from intimidation and violence.”

Progress arrives slowly, I guess. That is certainly true in the NFL, where it was only six years ago that Steelers linebacker James Harrison didn't even get a slap on the wrist for slapping the mother of his child in the face.

These days, thanks to Goodell's “personal-conduct policy,” punishments can be levied against such perpetrators even if criminal charges never materialize. Sadly, they are often laughable, hopelessly inadequate punishments like the one handed down to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice on Thursday.

Imagine the conversations in other parts of the world when they heard of the Rice verdict.

“Did you see what happened to the famous American football player, the one who (allegedly) knocked out his fiancee and dragged her across the floor like road kill? Nothing! Nothing happened to him! He was suspended for only two of 16 games!”

Sure, Rice and/or the players union likely would have fought anything longer than two games. So what? Goodell still would have sent a message, loud and clear, from the highest sports platform in the land if he'd announced, say, a full-season suspension: VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.

Instead, he cowered. And the sports world, as if on cue, produced a slew of depressing headlines to finish the week.

I'm guessing Goodell was still hiding under his desk when news broke that former New York Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch was arrested for allegedly smashing his ex-wife's head into a wall and throwing a humidifier at her.

Next came a headline that didn't seem all that different from the one above from West Bengal: “Two University of Texas football stars arrested for ‘gang raping female student and taking a picture of the attack' in their campus dorm room.”

We'll see if that elicits a legitimate investigation or something akin to the pathetic shams we've seen in other places, when other high-profile athletes have been accused of abusing women (Tallahassee, Fla., springs to mind). This is what happens in a sports-addled culture that worships athletes as kings.

Meanwhile, Stephen A. Smith, during the ESPN show “First Take,” advised that women should be careful not to provoke men to violence.

Thanks for that, Stephen A.

Finally, on Friday, word leaked of a civil suit filed against the Pouncey twins — Miami Dolphins center Mike and Steelers center Maurkice — stemming from an alleged brawl at their latest birthday bash in South Beach. It claims that when a woman named Niya Pickett tried to intervene (she probably should have consulted Stephen A. Smith before doing something so risky), Maurkice Pouncey “punched her in the face and knocked her unconscious.”

Pouncey vigorously denies any wrondoing. The Pounceys say they will file a counterclaim for malicious prosecution and defamation. Attorneys are awaiting possible surveillance video. If the accusations are proven true, goodness knows what kind of punishment Maurkice Pouncey could face.

Goodell might even suspend him a game.

Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at

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