For years, we’ve watched summers be filled with NFL players behaving badly. From driving under the influence to felony murder, headlines introduce us to the nasty streak of players on our favorite teams. But in recent years, marquee and borderline marquee stars have dominated the headlines with illegal behavior that falls under the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
This week, 2 suspensions were handed down that really highlight the inconsistency of professional sports and its administration of punishments; more specifically in the NFL. Baltimore Ravens’ lead running back Ray Rice was charged with felony assault for allegedly knocking his then-fiancee unconscious and being seen on camera dragging her into an elevator. As a first time offender, he was able to avoid jail time by pleading not guilty and entering an intervention program. As a result of this, the Ravens have suspended Rice for the 2014-2015 season’s first 2 games; against the Bengals and Steelers.
At another offensive position, wide receiver Josh Gordon has been suspended for the season after failing a drug test for the 3rd time. Gordon reportedly will be appealing the one-year ban, however he was also arrested in North Carolina for a DWI. It’s been clear for awhile now Gordon has a problem and needs serious help.
In a league where drug and alcohol use is used as a coping mechanism and/or a pain killer, you would think that Goodell would be extremely protective over the collateral damage that comes with that. Players’ wives and girlfriends too often are the victims of assault and battery. Goodell’s laxed punishment is essentially sending a message that if you find yourself lucky
(technically unlucky) enough to bag a franchise player, don’t look to the league to be preventive. The law might step in and be corrective about the behavior. In short, Roger Goddell doesn’t really care about violence against women.
This isn’t just a sports world problem either. In career fields, such as law enforcement, violence against women is considered the norm. You may not read about it
thanks to the thin blue line, but tons of cops beat their significant others and abuse their children. Nobody says anything. Why? Because the role of a cop is to protect and serve. We need law enforcement to protect us so the law protects them until they do something that’s beyond media spinning. The same is true in the NFL. As long as a player produces, can sell merchandise, and isn’t a chronic headache (like Gordon) then his off field criminal activity gets treated with a slap on the wrist. Unless it’s drugs. Because athletes using drugs, a victim-less offense, is bad for business.
Roger Goddell said in 2012 that he would be harsher in his punishing of instances involving domestic violence. He explicitly addressed it saying “when there’s a pattern of mistakes, something has to change.” Giving Ray Rice a more severe punishment than 2 games was the perfect opportunity to stand firm on domestic violence. Granted this was Rice’s first instance with a crime. I don’t always believe in making people martyrs to prove a point. But come on – the dude hit a woman so hard, she needed to be dragged from an elevator! Once again, a great player was given preferential treatment. (Sidenote: Carolina Panthers star DE Greg Hardy was also arrested and appealing his conviction for a domestic violence charge. Let’s see what suspension he faces.)
On a micro level, what’s disconcerting about Goodell’s passiveness on violence against women is it perpetuates a culture and ideology that already exists. Women have no voice when it comes to abuse. You can’t complain about a situation you chose to be in and stay in. Stop provoking him and learn his triggers like Stephen A. Smith in his original jumble of words. (which he’s now backtracked for.) Keep silent because you never bite the hand that feeds you. I mean, Rice’s wife apologized for her role in the incident! So who are we to be outraged if she felt she deserved to be knocked the f@ck out, right? All of this rhetoric is loud and clear when we see acts of violence against women get swept under the rug.
It’s hard to say if Goodell’s divvying out of suspensions will change as it pertains to domestic violence. Probably not though. And that’s sad. You can hit your wife or girlfriend, but calling your teammate a soft-as-Charmin f-g? And the league is happy to make an example out of you.