Like many, Adolpho Birch believes the National Football League sent a message about its view of domestic violence with its punishment of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. Unlike many, Birch, the NFL's senior vice president of labor policy, believes that message was the right one. Birch believes that a two-game suspension and fine for Rice make it clear that the NFL will not tolerate domestic violence.
With many media members and fans having expressed shock and outrage over the apparent leniency of Rice's punishment following a domestic violence arrest, Birch attempted to justify the NFL's recent decision and responded to the ensuing backlash during an appearance on ESPN's "Mike & Mike" radio program on Monday morning.
"I think the way we did that is the way that we determined discipline in all of these types of cases, and that is, the commissioner elicits a number of perspectives," Birch responded when asked how the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell determined the discipline for Rice. "He doesn't sit in a vacuum when he's making these types of decisions, but instead consults with people, listens to the perspectives of the Players' Association, and others at the league office, and ultimately makes a decision that he thinks is appropriate based on both the conduct and the importance of making the right message for the league and others going forward."
When asked by co-host Mike Golic if he felt the punishment levied by Goodell was justified, Birch insisted that he did.
"I think if you look at it, the discipline that was taken by the NFL is the only one that occurred with respect to Mr. Rice in this case," Birch added. "I think that were he not an NFL player, I don't know that he would have received any punishment from any other source. On balance, when we reviewed all the materials, the information, listened to the persons that we listened to, took the input of the Players' Association, when we looked on balance at all of that, we believe that the discipline we issued is appropriate. It is multiple games and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think that it's fair to say that that doesn't reflect that you condone the behavior. I think we can put that to rest."
WATCH SEGMENT OF INTERVIEW ABOVE
Rice, 27, was arrested at a casino in Atlantic City in February after allegedly punching his then-fiancèe, Janay Palmer, during an altercation. Surveillance footage later surfaced appearing to show Rice dragging a seemingly unconscious Palmer from an elevator. He later pleaded not guilty to a third-degree charge of aggravated assault in May. As a first-time offender, Rice avoided standing trial and was accepted into a diversion program. The NFL announced on Thursday that Rice had been suspended two games and fined under the NFL's personal conduct policy.
For many, including Golic and his co-host Mike Greenberg, the matter is far from put to rest, even if the NFL is satisfied with the punishment. In addition to asking Birch to shed light on Goodell's thought process in determining the discipline, Golic and Greenberg pressed him to address those who felt the wrong message was being sent.
"Well, listen, I think if you're any player and you believe that based on this decision that it's OK to go out and commit that type of conduct, I think that's something that I would, I would suggest to you that no player is going to go out and do that," Birch said on Monday. "So in terms of sending a message about what the league stands for, we've done that. We can talk about the degree of discipline. We can talk about whether or not you think third parties need to be involved. I would suggest to you that a third party has been involved in this matter, and that was the court that reviewed it, the prosecutor that reviewed it. But if it's a question of what the principle of the league is and what standards we stand by, that cannot be questioned. I think it is absolutely clear to all involved that the NFL does not condone domestic violence in any way and will not tolerate it in our league. I don't know how you can reach a conclusion other than that, although I certainly respect the opinion."
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Many reached a conclusion other than the one belonging to Birch and the NFL by noting that Rice's two-game suspension was less harsh than many recent punishments meted out for positive drug tests. Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is facing a season-long suspension after his latest failed drug test, this time reportedly for marijuana. Testing positive for drugs like Adderall or Ritalin can also result in four-game suspensions for players.
As previously noted by Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, the $58,000 suspension levied against Rice is also not necessarily as harsh as it sounds when placed in context. The Ravens signed Rice to a five-year contract worth approximately $40 million in July 2012.
Here's some perspective = the NFL fining Ray Rice $58k is like fining a person who made $50k over last 2 years $116. It's a speeding ticket
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) July 24, 2014
As later noted by Greenberg during the "Mike & Mike" program on Monday, Birch's explanation of the punishment did not satisfy many listening to the interview.
"I'm a little taken aback by the conversation, to be honest with you," Greenberg said, addressing listeners, minutes after the interview with Birch concluded. "The reaction is overwhelming and no one seems to think that he did a particularly good job of answering the questions. I do not feel that most people listening to that discussion feel they got an adequate explanation of how they arrived at two games."