The only demonstrable consistency in NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s suspension policies are the blatant inconsistencies that occur with a great deal of consistency. That and the meager punishment of Baltimore’s Ray Rice should be enough to make anyone’s head swim.
This week’s announcement has stunned the NFL world along with most folks with even a half-developed sense of right and wrong. Baltimore Raven’s starting tailback Ray Rice was issued a mere two-game suspension (plus one additional game check) for pounding his diminutive fiancée Janay Palmer (now his wife) unconscious and unceremoniously plopping her down on the marbled floor outside of an Atlantic City casino elevator door where the incident took place this past February.
The backlash from sportswriters across the web over the hyper-lenient reproof was swift and vindictive, though certainly warranted. Comments about Goodell’s failed and seemingly whimsical sanctions ranged from game-number suspensions for other players that “only smoked too much weed,” to the NFL’s handling of players whom they deem “homophobic” – truly a made up word if ever there was one.
A particularly sobering point that one writer addressed was his consternation about how Miss Palmer’s father could have walked her down the aisle and given her in marriage to a man who had so recently brutalized her, which is in reality a bona fide head-scratcher. And yet, it did happen just so.
NFL players are routinely (but certainly not always) punished for utterances that the politically correct consider offensive. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, in juxtaposition, received a six-game suspension without ever being charged with a crime, unlike Ray Rice who has been indicted for domestic violence-aggravated assault.
Goodell does appear to display a certain favoritism towards some, while alternately showing contempt for others rather dubiously; the aforementioned Pittsburgh Steelers have particularly borne the brunt of Goodell’s wrath throughout his tenure. And it’s not completely unreasonable to cite these kinds of disparities in the application of NFL “law.”
Former Baltimore Ravens’ receiver Donte Stallworth received a meager one season hiatus for killing a man while driving under the influence of alcohol. But the grand-daddy of all NFL injustices: former Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis received NO league suspension at all despite his clear involvement in a brawl outside an Atlanta nightclub that left two men dead. Lewis, initially charged with first degree murder eventually plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice.
(In fairness to Goodell it must be noted that the Ray Lewis debacle was before his enthronement as commissioner.)
All this aside, the Ray Rice situation underscores the fact the while the NFL has become a bastion for political correctness and “sensitivity” platitudes, it continues to be so with a great deal of inconsistency. The merits of the case against Rice should be evaluated on their own, notwithstanding the utter hypocrisy surrounding it.
But one thing that might leave football fans befuddled, perhaps Steelers’ fans especially, is the statement Goodell offered at the time he suspended Roethlisberger:
“The Personal Conduct Policy makes clear that I may impose discipline even where the conduct does not result in conviction of a crime as, for example, where the conduct imposes inherent danger to the safety and well-being of another person.”
Not necessarily a bad policy, but one that based upon a two game suspension for beating a tiny female unconscious is quite apparently NOT applied universally. If Rice’s actions don’t rise to the level of “imposing danger to the safety and well-being of another person” in Goodell’s mind, it’s difficult to imagine what would.
Partial video of the Ray Rice incident seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OETH5brfTi4