Only in the NFL is the use of a recreational or performance-enhancing drug considered a greater crime than a domestic violence charge. Even considering the graduated steps a player has to go through before getting a one-year suspension, that is simply not right. A spotlight has been put on player punishment lately, with Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon facing a one-year suspension for a third violation of the league’s drug policy, while Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice got a two-game suspension for a domestic violence charge. This week, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick received a four-game suspension for reportedly testing positive for Ecstasy.
Drug use of any sort is suspension-worthy, especially because I always wonder why high-level athletes with so much at stake would take such substantial risk in that area. But the inequality of the punishment levied for such offenses and in domestic violence cases seems to be on it’s way to being rectified, with Wednesday’s report from the Washington Post that the league is considering a 4-6 game penalty for domestic violence offenders. I assume that range of punishment accounts for actual criminal charges, or perhaps a subjective determination of the severity of each individual incident, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Commissioner Roger Goodell needs to move this “consideration” of stiffer penalties for domestic violence offenders into practice immediately. Like literally yesterday, but I’ll settle for an announcement some time in the next few days or weeks. The NFLPA surely can’t protest the implementation of greater penalties for domestic violence incidents as soon as plausible. 4-6 games for a first offense, and a one-year suspension for a second violation (per the Post report), feels like a first step toward bigger penalties being possible if a player is attached to an extreme domestic violence case, like the one Rice appears to have been involved in with his then-fiance and now-wife. Of course that was Rice’s first offense, in theory, but I’d certainly be in a long line of people that say a season-long suspension would have been just fine based on the evidence we’ve seen.