NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell seemed to establish a shocking precedent with his punishment of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice: Domestic violence arrests are bad but positive drug tests are worse.
The NFL announced Thursday that Rice would be suspended for two games and pay a fine as a result of violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. The 212-pound pro athlete allegedly punched his then-fiancèe, Janay Palmer, during a fight at an Atlantic City hotel in February. Surveillance footage later surfaced appearing to show Rice dragging Palmer's completely limp body from an elevator.
Had Rice been in trouble for abusing drugs rather than abusing an actual human being, his suspension would seemingly have been more severe based on several recent punishments levied by the NFL against other players.
To paraphrase Clay Travis of Fox Sports, anyone with a functional brain knows the NFL's player suspension system is broken.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is the most recent and high-profile case of just how imbalanced the NFL's reaction is toward domestic violence versus marijuana -- a substance that's rapidly being decriminalized around the nation. Gordon was handed a season-long suspension after testing positive for marijuana during the offseason, his second drug violation. He's currently waiting to appeal the suspension, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported on Thursday, citing an unnamed league source.
Just one day before the announcement of Rice's suspension and the report on Gordon's appeal, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon was arrested Wednesday night in Oklahoma for marijuana possession and a driving violation, USA Today reports. For his offense -- his third -- Blackmon faces indefinite suspension.
(According to the NFL's personal conduct policy, players can be suspended even if they haven't been charged or convicted of a crime.)
Marijuana isn't the only drug that the NFL apparently takes more seriously than violence against women: Testing positive for drugs like Adderall or Ritalin -- both considered to be "performance enhancing drugs" -- netted players like Seahawks CB Walter Thurmond a 4-game suspension (and the list goes on.)
Meanwhile, Ravens coach John Harbaugh told ESPN Thursday that he stood behind Ray calling him "a heck of a guy."
"He's done everything right since," Harbaugh said, noting Rice has undergone counseling. "He makes a mistake. He's going to have to pay a consequence."
NFL Network just referred to Ray Rice two-game suspension as "the iron fist of the NFL." It would be funny if it weren't so offensive.
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) July 24, 2014
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.