The NFL’s moral hypocrisy on domestic abuse, Part II

Generally, I try to avoid (and will continue to do so) posting multiple blogs on the same story. Please forgive me for suspending my typical M.O. and returning to Ray Rice’s pathetic punishment from the NFL for domestic abuse.

Listen, my beef is pretty simple. Roger Goodell’s NFL is a league that takes no prisoners when it comes to handling people who make the game look bad. That’s the reason for its strict anti-drug policies and ruthless pursuit of Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints a few years back. So my question is this: Since you’re not philosophically opposed to dishing out wrath, Mr. Goodell, why are you so careful to toe the judicial line when it comes to a player’s domestic abuse case?

This morning, ESPN radio hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic talked with NFL senior VP of labor policy Adolpho Birch about the Rice case. His defense of the league’s decision is hard to listen to. It lacks logic and directness and actually sounds a lot like a top executive trying to read from his boss’s script. Here are some bytes:

“But if it is a question about what the principle of the league is and what standards we stand by, that cannot be questioned. I think it is absolutely clear to all involved that the NFL does not condone domestic violence in any way and will not tolerate it in our league. I don’t know how you can reach a conclusion other than that although I certainly respect the opinion.”

Here’s how you reach the conclusion that doubts how seriously the NFL takes domestic abuse. The NFL gave Lane Johnson, a second year offensive lineman, a 4 game suspension for his first positive PED test. Ray Rice, a veteran and star player for the league, got 2 games for video evidence showing him dragging a semi-conscious fiance out of a casino.

Now, if Mr. Birch means to say that the NFL’s views on domestic abuse “cannot be questioned” due to the fact that Rice received a two game suspension, he’s basically admitting that the league takes a positive PED test more seriously than evidence of domestic violence. The question is: Why?

But that’s nothing compared to this howler:

“The discipline that was taken by the NFL is the only discipline that occurred, with respect to Mr. Rice, in this case,” Birch said. “I think that, were he not an NFL player, I don’t know that he would be able to receive any punishment from any other source.

I had to listen to that part of the clip twice to make sure I heard what I thought I heard. I can think of no worse defense possible for the league’s actions than this line of reasoning. What legal action was taken against Sean Payton or Gregg Williams? Yet both of those coaches were given yearlong suspensions by the league (Williams got two years) for offering bonuses to players that injured opposing QBs on the field. Disgustingly ruthless? Yup. On par with domestic violence? Not a chance!

The NFL gives not one rip whether the law has a case against you or not. The league has shown time and time again that playing for the National Football League makes you a citizen of the shield first. It has zero scruples with holding players to standards above and beyond the acceptable practices of culture. Except, apparently, when it comes to star players who hurt women.


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