A February incident between Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his then-fiancé and now-wife, Janay Palmer, at an Atlantic City hotel sent shockwaves around the NFL.
The alleged strike from Rice that knocked Palmer unconscious, and the video footage of Rice subsequently dragging Palmer’s body out of an elevator, erased the good guy image that Rice had achieved over the last few seasons as an outstanding football player and citizen. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently laid down Rice’s punishment: a two-game suspension which caused many NFL followers to question whether Goodell laid down the hammer or simply laid down for Rice.
Goodell embarked on a crusade as a stern “cleanup man” when he took the reins of the NFL in 2006. This time, however, many around the league are questioning whether a two-game ban for domestic violence is too lenient compared to some of his other rulings. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: If you’re a fan of the NFL then you have to be extremely disappointed with Goodell’s ruling. I’ve seen harsher punishments handed down over substance abuse and drug charges. Goodell’s decision clearly says domestic violence isn’t as important as marijuana use or performance enhancing drugs, and it softens the no-nonsense stance that Goodell has attempted to erect over the years. Rice will be back on the field by the middle of September; for a player that the world just saw on video dragging his fiancé out of an elevator like she was nothing, something just doesn’t seem right with that picture.
Green: I’ve always been in favor of the NFL taking a hands-off approach when it comes to players getting in trouble with the law. A judge has already presided over the case and prosecutors have already offered Rice a plea bargain, which he accepted, to spare him any jail time. Rice has enrolled in an intervention program, so he’s already had his day in court. I’ve never understood why the NFL or Goodell feels the need to further punish a player after that individual has already gone through the court process. A two-game suspension without pay is piling on to the public ridicule, indictment and humiliation that Rice has already endured. The length of the suspension may be too short for some fans, but we don’t always have to rely on Goodell to be the judge, jury and executioner.
Riley: Goodell’s main job is to uphold the integrity and public image of the NFL, so issuing an additional penalty after Rice has already gone through the court system is standard operating procedure for any commissioner. The N in NFL stands for National and any NFL player is representing professional football league of this country no matter how petty or how serious the crime. You may think it’s petty for Goodell to be “adding” on his own punishment, but imagine the backlash that would follow if Rice is allowed to take the field on opening day as if the entire world didn’t just see him handling his fiancé like day-old trash a few months ago. Because the entire world did see that disturbing footage, suspending him for two games just isn’t enough punishment to fit an otherwise cowardly and irresponsible act.
Green: Two games is plenty enough when you consider that the games he’s missing will be against the Cincinnati Bengals, the defending AFC North champions, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens’ classic rival. Rice’s absence has a chance to derail Baltimore’s entire season if they fall into a 0-2 hole to start the year. Ask Baltimore coach John Harbaugh if the punishment is too light, considering he’s losing one of his top offensive weapons for two of the most important games of the season. The full story of what happened that night has yet to be revealed, and the couple is now married, isolating that February incident as a blip on the pair’s radar. How serious could that incident have been if Palmer is now married to Rice and the judges in the case decided that counseling was the only consequence needed? Rice has endured enough punishment, and his acts will undoubtedly lower the Ravens’ chances in two games they’ll definitely need to make the upcoming season a memorable one. Any further punishment should come directly from the court system and not Goodell
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