For a lot of people around the country, Ravens running back Ray Rice only receiving a two-game suspension was not an appropriate punishment.
On Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the controversy for the first time in front of a cohort of reporters in Canton, Ohio, with the league preparing for the Pro Football Hall of Fame festivites this weekend.
Goodell defended the two-game suspension, telling reporters in attendance that he made his ruling based on all of the facts presented to him.
“We have a very firm policy that domestic violence is not acceptable in the NFL and that there will be consequences for that,” Goodell said. “Obviously, when we're going through the process of evaluating the issue and whether there would be discipline, you look at all of the facts you have available to us.”
Rice allegedly punched his then-fiancee and now-wife Janay Rice at Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. in the early morning of Feb. 15. The aftermath was caught on camera and distributed to TMZ, which saw Rice dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator.
Goodell said that Rice made a mistake and will have to work hard to reestablish himself in the league. But being a first-time offender helped Rice avoid a harsher punishment, he stated. The lone time where it appeared Goodell became somewhat agitated was when he was presented a question as to whether it was fair to give someone linked with domestic violence a two-game suspension vs. someone that tested positive for marijuana a four-game ban.
“You have to deal with some facts,” Goodell said. “When we have a drug program that is collectively bargained and it has a step process, it takes four incidents before you actually reach a suspension in a drug-related case. You have to respond to facts here. A lot of people are voicing their opinion but it's important to understand that this is a young man that made a terrible mistake that is inconsistent with what we're all about. We dealt with it in a serious manner and we're very confident that this young man understands where he is and what he needs to do going forward.”
Goodell said precedents and remaining consistent in first-time offender cases were also factors in the decision.
But Goodell's comments, and everything that surrounded the Rice issue this week, actually brings up the notion that maybe the NFL and NFLPA should begin thinking of adding domestic violence to the next CBA, even though the current agreement doesn't expire until 2020.
Or possibly, the NFL and NFLPA could come to some sort of agreement and institute a rule in addition to the current CBA for the time being, which offers more of a zero tolerance approach to domestic violence cases. The league can say that it won't tolerate domestic violence all it wants. But until it becomes proactive on the issue, talk will remain cheap.
It is an issue that should be addressed moving forward. Perhaps this is something the NFL can learn from.
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