When violence is more acceptable than slurs, we have a problem
The NFL's system for suspending players is broken. You know it, I know it, anyone with a functional brain knows it.
That's the only conclusion that can be drawn from Baltimore Raven running back Ray Rice reportedly receiving a two-game suspension for knocking out his fiancee and then dragging her unconscious body outside a casino elevator. Hell, the casino probably has a more stringent punishment for Rice than the NFL. They probably won't let him come back and gamble.
Maybe we're being unkind to Rice here. I mean, there's probably a perfectly reasonable explanation for how he managed to knock out his fiancee accidentally. Plus, it's not like there was video of the incident.
Wait, there was?
Well, let's wait for the court system to render its full judgment before we act. Wait, the courts already did that too?
Ray Rice is lucky he didn't call his wife a gay slur while she was knocked out. Because then the NFL really would have been mad. He might not play this season. Based on the precedent the Minnesota Vikings set with Mike Preifer, he certainly would have missed more games for merely uttering a gay slur than for knocking out a woman.
What if Rice had paused while dragging his wife's body out of the elevator and sent a mean text or tweet, then the NFL would have really laid down the law, too. Remember mean words are much worse than mean acts. Or, God forbid, imagine if Ray Rice had gotten free tattoos at Rutgers and the NFL found out about it. Then, like Terrelle Pryor, he might have faced a five-game NFL suspension. Hell, Pryor could have knocked out two women and only missed four games.
And don't even get me started on the NFL's absurd drug-testing policy suspensions. If you smoke too much weed you can miss an entire NFL season. That's the equivalent of knocking out eight women. (Ten if your team advances deep in the playoffs). How in the world is it eight times as bad to smoke too much weed as it is to knock out a woman? Is there any person on earth who agrees with these disparate punishments? Keep in mind, weed is not even a performance enhancing substance, it makes you worse at the game. Here's what the NFL's drug policy should be -- use any drugs you want if they don't improve player performance. That's your risk, we don't care. But that's another column, this one is about stupidity, the NFL's in particular. Somehow we've reached the point where violent acts are much less severely punished than mean words or texts or tattoos or bad jokes about gay people during practices.
How? How in the world did we get to a place where the NFL conducts a rigorous investigation of Richie Incognito's text messages, but lets a player knock out his fiancee and barely lifts a finger? Where Josh Gordon faces a season-long suspension for smoking too much weed, but violent felons are free to play with limited punishment. Ray Rice is the flashpoint today, but this isn't so much about Ray Rice as it is the NFL's untenable position on punishments for violence. It's an upside down NFL world. Violence against women is acceptable, words or non-violent acts are often unacceptable. It's an infuriating and stupid and indefensible double standard, the exact opposite of what should happen. Violent acts should be punished infinitely more severely than non-violent acts or words.
How can a multi-billion dollar league get it this wrong? How can a team like the Baltimore Ravens hold a press conference for Rice and his then-victim, now wife, to discuss the incident and be so tone deaf? Did they really let her accept blame for being knocked out? Was she armed with five guns, eight throwing stars, two machetes, and a pair of nunchucks? No? So what fear did Ray Rice really have that his fiancee was going to hurt him? Ray Rice makes a living getting hit by NFL linebackers, you think he couldn't subdue a 110 pound woman's anger without knocking her out? For that matter, how can any dad walk a woman down the aisle and give her away for marriage to a man who knocked her out? Because that happened too. You want to know why the NFL thinks it can get away with a two game suspension for a violent act against a woman? Because we let it happen every day in this country.
Imagine what our society might look like if we condemned violence against women like we condemn racism or homophobia. America would look a lot different. So would the NFL. Unfortunately, right now in the NFL you're better off hitting a woman than smoking weed or making a bad joke. Why is this true? Because, ultimately, the NFL is just reflecting our own national priorities. Amazingly, in 21st century America violence against women is more socially acceptable than bad jokes. And ultimately, that's our fault, not the NFL's.