BOSTON (CBS) — Wide receiver LaVon Brazill was suspended for an entire season for twice violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Likewise, linebacker Daryl Washington received a year-long ban for doing the same. Receiver Josh Gordon was issued a yearlong suspension, reportedly for smoking marijuana. Lineman Richie Incognito was suspended three months last season for being mean to a teammate.
Ray Rice was shown on video dragging his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator after allegedly punching her in the head and knocking her out.
Ray Rice was given just a two-game suspension.
This is, no doubt, just the latest illustration of the completely backward priorities not only of the NFL but also of the justice system. Really, if the best punishment the courts could come up with was a “pretrial intervention program” which will erase his assault charges after a year, it’s hard to expect the NFL to suddenly hold itself to a higher standard. And there’s no number of football games that could have possibly served as a proper punishment for a man who never denied knocking out his wife.
Still, the decision by the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Rice for just two games sends an awful message about the league’s standards and priorities.
We already knew that the Baltimore Ravens, Rice’s primary employer, didn’t take the alleged domestic assault too seriously back in May. That was when the team’s official Twitter account shared a few disturbing nuggets from the press conference of the halfheartedly apologetic running back. Among the choice quotes shared that day were Janay Rice explaining that she deeply regretted “the role that she played the night of the incident” as well as Ray himself saying, “I won’t call myself a failure. Failure is not getting knocked down. It’s not getting up.”
Two months have passed, and that still stands as one of the worst usages of the English language, considering the given circumstances.
Now with NFL training camps opening around the country, the message has been sent: Knock a woman unconscious, drag her out of an elevator, and you’ll have to sit out for a whopping 14 days.
Again, it would be somewhat difficult for the NFL to take a tougher stand than the criminal justice system … but a yearlong suspension for marijuana is certainly a stronger punishment than what the courts call for. It is true that Janay elected not to press charges and ended up marrying Ray days after the incident, but there is no denying that the NFL is completely mishandling this situation and is fumbling the opportunity to actually make a statement.
Consider that a Google search of “Roger Goodell domestic violence” brings up this August 2012 story as its first result.
“We are going to do some things to combat this problem because some of the numbers on DUIs and domestic violence are going up and that disturbs me,” Goodell told CBSSports two years ago. “When there’s a pattern of mistakes, something has got to change.”
At that time, it was clear that Goodell was just paying lip service to the problem, as he went on to provide an anticipatory excuse for a lack of punishment. He said the league was all for stiffer punishments, but that it would be up to the players union to agree.
Goodell knew at the time that nothing was going to change, and he proved it now by issuing such a small punishment to such an awful misdeed. (Lest you think it wasn’t awful, feel free to watch the video of Rice dragging a lifeless body out of an elevator.)
Surprising? Sadly, no. This is the NFL, and the NFL is king. The NFL is as powerful a sports league that could ever exist, and the NFL answers to nobody. Unfortunately, that air of invincibility will continue to extend to its players, who know they can do just about anything (except for smoke weed) and skate with only a minor punishment.
An alleged punch to the head of a woman will cost you just a light slap on the wrist. That’s the league that Roger Goodell has chosen to lead.