Goodell misses mark

NFL drawing criticism with its inconsistent player conduct policies and suspensions

Joe Ballard and Frederic Hewitt, Clarion Staff

Roger Goodell cartoon
Clarion Illustration by Christopher Pinkert


Thus far of the 2014 NFL season, the league has handed out 31 suspensions. The way the league determines the severity of misconduct is under much scrutiny. Most notable was Ray Rice’s suspension, which occurred after a video surfaced of Rice dragging his then fiancée, Janay Palmer, unconsciously from an Atlantic City casino elevator earlier this summer.

The NFL responded to this horrific crime by suspending Rice two games. TMZ released a video showing Rice striking Palmer with enough force to knock her unconscious. Since the video became public, Rice was released by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely from the NFL.

The NFL and Roger Goodell have denied publicly that the video ever reached the NFL office. The Associated Press released reports that an anonymous law enforcement official had sent the video and received confirmation of its delivery via voicemail from the NFL shortly after the first video was released. It’s hard to believe that an enterprise worth $10 billion annually, would have such a difficult time obtaining the video that TMZ was capable of finding.

Rice has since made it clear that he had informed Goodell of his actions inside the elevator in a personal meeting they had after he had been charged. The player’s association plans on filing a grievance on behalf of Rice on the grounds that he had been punished twice for the same offense.

In a letter and memo to the NFL team owners last week, Goodell said domestic violence would be met with an unpaid six game suspension for the first offense and a lifetime ban for a second offense. This is after the NFL faced criticism for its weak punishment for Rice after the first video surfaced.

Daryl Washington, an Arizona Cardinals linebacker, was suspended for at least a year for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. This spring, he pled guilty to assaulting the mother of his child and received a yearlong supervised probation and was fined $3 million, but has not faced any further suspension from the NFL regarding the domestic violence ruling.

It’s uncertain if the commissioner will follow his new guidelines for domestic abuse with a six game suspension, or if we’ll see another punishment influenced by public opinion.

How these two players received such different punishments is baffling. Even prior to Washington’s charge of domestic violence, how could a substance abuse policy violation call for longer suspensions and a larger fine than actually harming another person?

It seems Goodell is handling punishments based on public response. If the second video of Rice hadn’t surfaced, it’s possible the initial two-game suspension would have remained the same.

The “USA TODAY” Players Arrest Database recorded 85 arrests of domestic violence since 2000. Only 11 of those 85 players arrested were actually suspended by the NFL. Since Goodell became commissioner, more than 50 of those domestic violence charges against former and current players have happened.

As commissioner, Goodell implemented a new conduct policy to clean up the league’s notorious reputation. This meant more strict repercussions for substance abuse, personal conduct, and performance enhancing drug violations. The only problem is Goodell has been wildly inconsistent with how certain violations are handled.
When it comes to domestic abuse, in comparison to other violations, it seems the severity of the repercussion is based upon how much tangible evidence there is and how it affects the public’s eye. Without video or pictures being made public, the NFL won’t take as hard of a hit with the public, meaning less severe punishments.

The NFL seems to hand out and adjust punishments based on the overall public opinion. A consistent discipline to all infractions needs to be put in place to maintain order and credibility within America’s favorite game.

NFL discipline cases