clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Disgusting Blind Eye to Domestic Violence in the NFL

Roger Goodell and the NFL have failed to acknowledge and appropriately punish players accused of domestic violence. According to Goodell, smoking pot is a more severe transgression than beating your fiancee unconscious.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.


I wasn't sure I was going to watch the video clip of Ray Rice knocking his (then) fiancee unconscious in a hotel elevator.  I was already enraged over the fact that the NFL and it's commissioner, Roger Goodell, suspended Rice for two whole games for the incident.  Sure, you beat your girlfriend unconscious, you miss two games.  Use performance enhancing drugs?  You'll miss 8 games (Andre Brown).  Smoke marijuana?  Miss the entire season (Josh Gordon). Bully a teammate?  You'll be suspended indefinitely (Richie Incognito).  Are you sensing there's a slight imbalance in punishments that are doled out?  I do and it's disgusting.

Take a minute to peruse this screenshot from the USA Today NFL Player Arrests database (click to embiggen):


You'll notice that even if a player was charged and pled guilty to a charge of domestic violence, they were, at most, suspended for two games.  Even if you're a repeat offender, like Michael Pittman, you would only receive a one game suspension (again, click to embiggen):


Now read this transcript of an interview Roger Goodell did after suspending Ray Rice indefinitely.  You know, the one where he maintains that no one in the NFL had seen the video of Rice actually punching his fiancee in the face?  They only saw the one of him dragging her by her feet, unconscious, from the elevator.  Somehow he felt suspending Rice for two games with that evidence was sufficient.  I suppose if you look at the last fourteen years of history of punishment for domestic violence by the league (the USA Today database only goes back to 2000), he did receive the most punishment any other player has received.

The real issue here, however, isn't how many games Ray Rice should be suspended. I'd argue he should never be allowed to put on an NFL uniform ever again.  The real issue is the fact that the NFL has a long history of turning a blind eye to issues involving its players and domestic violence.

This is an excerpt from Goodell's April 2007 announcement regarding the implementation of his Personal Conduct Policy:

"Illegal or irresponsible conduct does more than simply tarnish the offender. It puts innocent people at risk, sullies the reputation of others involved in the game, and undermines public respect and support for the NFL.
While criminal activity is clearly outside the scope of permissible conduct, and persons who engage in criminal activity will be subject to discipline, the standard of conduct for persons employed in the NFL is considerably higher. It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the league is based, and is lawful. Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime."

via this USA Today article.

Apparently, domestic abuse apparently doesn't qualify as illegal or irresponsible conduct.  When your commissioner doles out punishment that is significantly worse for using illegal drugs or PEDs, he is sending a clear message to women. When you consider that roughly 45% of all NFL fans are women, this is not only bad business, it's disturbing.  I'm not suggesting that it would be any less heinous if there were less female NFL fans.  Quite the contrary.  I'm also not calling for a boycott of the NFL, because they won't hear the message if it isn't loud and clear.  There's no room for subtlety here.  What I'm calling for, is for both male and female NFL fans to send the message to Goodell that his lip service policies and outright lies will not be tolerated.

As I was composing this post, it came to light the the NFL was sent a copy of the entire surveillance footage three months ago.  Someone in the NFL offices acknowledged receipt.  So much for no one in the NFL having seen the video footage. Oh, wait, they backtracked on that and it's now "of his knowledge".  For all of his tough talk about not tolerating this type of behavior, it appears Goodell probably meant that for players who aren't cash cows for the NFL.  There are a number of much lesser known players who've been cut from teams for domestic assault charges, whether founded or unfounded (the former Vikings cornerback A. J. Jefferson, for example).  Why the double standard?  We all know the answer to that:  MONEY.  For his continued lack of appropriate response to the domestic violence epidemic in the NFL, Roger Goodell should be fired.  God knows he's too much of a megalomaniac to resign.