December 8, 2022
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NFL should have given Ray Rice a harsher initial punishment

Much attention has been given to the National Football League over the last two weeks. Sunday, Sept. 7, saw the opening Sunday for games. Fantasy owners were ecstatic as they watched their teams play and players score points. The NFL itself was no doubt giddy over the anticipation of another season with which to gain more and more revenue. But all that glitters is not gold, and the NFL did not start the season anywhere close to a gold standard.

Back in March, TMZ released a video of Ray Rice dragging his then-fiancee out of an elevator. Just last week, TMZ released another video that apparently shows Rice hitting his fiancee in that elevator. The Baltimore Ravens terminated the contract of their pro-bowl running back after this video surfaced. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, had originally given Rice a mere two-game suspension in July after viewing the first video. Two games. Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker got a four-game suspension for using Adderall at the Kentucky Derby. After the outcry that followed the two-game suspension, Goodell then admitted he had made a mistake and the suspension was increased to “indefinitely.”

There is an issue here. The original punishment for Rice was less severe than Welker’s punishment for using Adderall. Adderall is banned under the NFL’s drug policy, but Welker’s indiscretion was not harming another or enhancing his athletic performance, but was simply enabling him to party harder at the Kentucky Derby. Someone should check Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel and warn him to celebrate carefully, especially after reports of him partying with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski came out in May in USA Today.

The issue is not that Welker was suspended for this — he should have been. He violated the policy under which he plays. The issue is that a man who hit his fiancee — now wife — hard enough to knock her out was given half the punishment of a man who took Adderall. Goodell suspended Rice originally for two games. The Ravens were the ones who increased the severity, and then, after claiming to have seen the video for the first time, Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely. But this only serves to bring up another question: If TMZ managed to get their hands on the video, how the hell did the NFL not manage to get it earlier? In fact, it was TMZ who published the first video showing Rice dragging his fiance out of an elevator. The NFL had seen that video, but nothing was done. To make matters worse, a recent article by CBS Sports stated that on April 9, Goodell was in Augusta, Georgia, for the beginning of the Masters Tournament. This was also the date that the Associated Press confirmed the NFL had copies of the Ray Rice videos.

The NFL is interested in making money, as is every business. But making money should not come at the price of ignorance. Goodell represents the NFL, and his decisions reflect the entirety of the organization. With that comes the representation of the teams that play in his National Football League. I’m sure if you asked Goodell if he condones domestic violence, he would say absolutely not. I’m sure he means that. But when he initially decides a mere two-game suspension is enough for a player who beat his wife, it becomes cloudy on what is more important to Goodell: making money or setting a good example to the teams, the players and the fans. Right now, it looks like money is more important, and that is abhorrent. The NFL needs a leadership change, and it needs to happen quickly.