I love football. I grew up with the sport, have treated athletes at the high school and college level and have spent more than my fair share of weekends marveling (and sometimes cursing) at the physical prowess on display on the gridiron.he high school and col

Unfortunately, this column is not about football or football injuries – it’s about the off-the-field actions of a pro football player willing to brutally hurt a woman he purports to love, and the team and league that desperately tried to turn a blind eye to it.

By now many of you know that the Baltimore Ravens fired running back Ray Rice after celebrity gossip website TMZ released a video on Sep. 8 week showing him punching his then-fiancée (and now wife) Janay Palmer in the face, apparently knocking her out, in the elevator of at an Atlantic City casino.

After the incident, Rice doesn’t drop to his knees to check on her condition, or show any apparent remorse; he waits for the elevator doors to open and pulls her out by her shoulders, dropping her face first on the lobby floor.

The NFL moved on the same day of the video’s release to suspend Rice indefinitely. The attack occurred in February – six months earlier.

Before this video was released, a police summons stated that Rice caused “bodily harm to Janay Palmer, specifically by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious.”

Before this video was released, TMZ obtained an earlier video from the casino lobby showing Ray Rice unceremoniously dragging his then-fiancée out of the elevator.

Before this video was released, Rice was indicted by a grand jury for aggravated assault.

Before this video was released, the NFL suspended Rice for two games – less time than other players have been suspended for smoking marijuana.

NFL officials (and specifically commissioner Roger Goodell) say they never saw the elevator video before Sep. 8, although TMZ is reporting they knew about its existence and never tried to obtain it for the NFL’s “investigation.”

But does that really matter? They knew the basic facts – a 220-pound, 27-year-old professional football player admitted to knocking out an unarmed woman half his size.

Of course, the league also knew that Ray Rice had been a four-time, 1,000-yard season rusher, and that sales of his jersey were among the most popular in the Baltimore area.

Later, Rice would say his actions were “inexcusable,” but that he was being attacked. The video proves he’s a liar, and just looking at the physical differences between Rice and his wife should have been enough reason to seriously doubt him.

By suspending Ray Rice indefinitely, what the NFL told the world is that violence against women deserves to be punished – if the world sees it.

The NFL now has erased years of good will it has tried to build up with women, who make up 45 percent of its fan base, with its high-profile support of causes like the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The NFL has guaranteed this season will be dominated not by talk of whether the Seattle Seahawks can repeat as Super Bowl Champions, but about whether the league is going to get serious about sending a message to players about something they all should have learned as children – how to treat and respect women.

Ray Rice’s actions do not reflect the typical NFL player, but the league’s action – or rather, its initial inaction – is starting to feel all too typical.

We’ll get back to one of the subjects I enjoy – stem cell research, regenerative injection therapy, or sports rehabilitation – in the next column.  And if we are fortunate, we won’t have to revisit this blog’s subject ever again.

Dr. Annette “Dr. Z” Zaharoff heads the Non-Surgical Center of Texas, focusing on non-surgical alternatives to relieve pain and repair injuries. A former professional tennis player who competed in the WTC circuit, Dr. Zaharoff remains actively involved with the US Tennis Association. Learn more about her at www.drzmd.com