Got Off Easy
July 31, 2014
When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell levied a two-game suspension and a fine to Ravens' running back Ray Rice, it hardly seemed sufficient. It is almost like Goodell did not see the videotape of Rice dragging his wife out of an elevator at an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino after delivering a punch brutal enough to knock her unconscious. Rice’s lenient suspension was far from appropriate; it was a disservice to the entire league and is completely tone deaf to the issue of domestic violence, an issue prevalent in the NFL.
Beyond all the moral issues with such a light punishment, it is one that does nothing to support Goodell’s notion that the NFL “simply does not tolerate conduct that harms others” as he wrote to Rice in handing down the suspension. Two games is barely a blip in the season.
Rice’s absence for the first two weeks will barely be noticed. It actually gives him two extra weeks to prepare for the long season. Goodell needed to make an example out of Rice and he failed. If he truly didn’t tolerate the behavior, Rice would have been banned for a majority of the season at minimum. Some thought it would have been a year-long suspension. The commissioner sure didn’t tolerate the behavior of Gregg Williams and company in New Orleans who harmed the NFL’s integrity by condoning injury to its players. Multiple Saints players and coaches sat out a season for attempting to harm fellow players on a field. Apparently a woman can be knocked unconscious by a player with little repercussions.
It was not appropriate, especially for a league that has professed having no tolerance for those who inflict violence upon women. Two games feels like a joke and it's barely a punishment for a player like Rice who has made $25 million in the past 24 months.
A zero-tolerance organization when it comes to matters of domestic violence would have released him. I understand there are competitive reasons why the Ravens have chosen to not do this. But it sends a poor message that "star" players are given the allowance to commit these crimes with little league or team punishment, as Goodell's ruling also points toward.
Goodell’s legacy will forever be tarnished by his lack of response to Rice and domestic violence. The league was in a position to be a leader on this issue and instead showed weakness and cowardice. What was needed here was for Goodell to take some lessons from NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Like the Rice situation, Silver was faced with a situation in Donald Sterling that angered millions. Silver had a choice to make: Was his league going to somewhat tolerate racism or not? He made the gutsy choice, one that was not only morally correct but also serves as a deterrent. Goodell had a similar opportunity to take a stand against domestic violence and failed.
Remember NFL draft night? Remember Johnny Manziel being drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns? Remember when Manziel said it was time for play football and eliminate the partying? Well,since being drafted in May, noted college party animal Manziel has actually picked up his partying pace. And he is doing it on a public stage. Here are just a few of his activities. And these are just a few of the ones that are known.
There are pics and videos of him partying in Las Vegas with Rob Gronkowski. Another video surfacing from Austin, TX, of him guzzling from a bottle of champagne while floating on an inflatable swan. And how about his appearance on an Instagram video at a party in Houston with Drake, presumably drunk and definitely using a stack of money as a phone.
The mentioned incidents happened during a three week period. One has to wonder if Manziel is a train wreck waiting to happen. No one seems to be able to rein Johnny Football in. Manziel was a partier when he got to Texas A&M and his exploits have gone national when he left. In between he generated so much money that coach Kevin Sumlin doubled his salary to $5 million and the school started a $450 million expansion to its stadium. Manziel was the Aggies' golden goose. Tough love? That was never going to happen at College Station. And it does not seem to be happening at Cleveland yet. He now has serious money to finance his outings.
Manziel is a gifted athlete. There is little debate over that statement. What is being debated is his maturity. If he doesn't have the maturity to become the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, he will likely flame out quickly. The Browns drafted him to be their face of the franchise. They cannot like it when the face of the franchise is being photographed floating on an inflatable swan--when he's not slurring words into a cell phone made of money. Manziel knew the world would be watching. He knows people have doubts about his maturity, his ability to handle the freedom that life in the NFL affords a young millionaire. He did not care and that has to worry his fans and his employers in Cleveland. Johnny Manziel's NFL career hasn't started well. As of this moment, I feel there is a strong chance it will not end well.
Dungy Has It Wrong
Former NFL coach Tony Dungy has been taking heat this week for his statement hat he would not have drafted Michael Sam, the NFL's first openly gay football player.
Since his initial comments, Dungy has released a clarification statement saying that drafting Sam would create a distraction because of the overwhelming media attention it would bring. He stated that is the reason why he would not have chosen Sam. I do agree that the first openly gay football player being drafted into the NFL has gained quite a bit of media attention. But I feel that the attention was needed and it will be short-lived. The attention will give people struggling with being accepted for who they are a role model. It will bring attention to people who have thought their big dreams were out of reach because of their sexual orientation.
It will bring attention to people who have been terrified to come out to their families and friends. The NFL, with this issue at least, is a role model.
I, for one, would rather read about this issue over drug, domestic violence, and gun violence stories like the Aaron Hernandez story. Are these stories and players not a distraction? Perhaps one of the 31 NFL players arrested between the 2012 Super Bowl and last summer did not distract Dungy. Certainly dealing with the media attention surrounding a gay football player who could serve as a role model for thousands of NFL fans across the world would be much more difficult to handle than, say, Michael Vick's dog fighting scandal. By the way, Dungy has been pro-Vick from day one.
I read his comments and was somewhat surprised. Dungy made history being the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl, a feat that likely also made him a role model for people with similar types of struggles. Unfortunately, it appears Dungy is too distracted to see these similarities and appreciate that Michael Sam is following in his history-making footsteps.
Back to the distraction theory. It turns out that Sam's teammates at the University of Missouri knew about Sam's sexuality prior to the 2013 season opener. It did not bother them as they produced one of their best seasons ever.