After the first video of Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator surfaced in July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for a mere two games. An apparent knockout punch was punished with a slap on the wrist, which Goodell later acknowledged wasn’t enough.
“I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values,” Goodell wrote in August. “I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”
Goodell revised the NFL’s disciplinary policy with regards to domestic violence: a six-game suspension or more for the initial infraction and up to a lifetime ban for recidivists, with the opportunity for annual appeals. Even though Goodell said that “domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They have no place in the NFL and are unacceptable in any way, under any circumstances,” a great many abusers of women still in fact have a place in the league.
Ray Rice’s teammate and All-Pro linebacker Terrell Suggs has twice gotten into altercations with his then-girlfriend and current wife. In 2009, he allegedly, “threw a soap dispenser at her head, hit her in the chest with his hand, and held a bottle of bleach over her and their 1-year-old son.” In 2012, he “punched her in the neck and dragged her alongside a speeding car with their two children in the vehicle.” Unlike Rice, Suggs was on the field with the rest of the Ravens on Sunday.
Carolina Panther Greg Hardy was convicted this summer of assaulting his girlfriend and threatening her life.
“He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me,” Nicole Holder told the court. “I was so scared I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said, ‘Just do it. Kill me,’”
Hardy was given a 60-day suspended sentence and put on probation for 18 months. Last Sunday, he suited up for the Panthers, registering one sack and four tackles.
Brandon Marshall, wide receiver for the Chicago Bears, has a rap sheet including two domestic violence charges. He caught eight passes for 71 yards and a touchdown in an overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills last weekend.
Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys hit his mom and then said, “I’m done with domestic abuse” at a 2013 “Men Against Abuse” rally. The NFL is not done with him.
Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers was part of a defense that shut down Bryant’s Cowboys, even though he was busted for felony domestic violence a mere 72 hours after Goodell’s revised policy was announced. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said last week, “If someone physically abuses a woman and/or physically or mentally abuses or hurts a child, then there’s no understanding. There’s no tolerance for that.” Unless you play for Jim Harbaugh.
Randy Starks was forced to miss a single exhibition game despite striking his fiancée. He still plays for the Miami Dolphins.
Frostee Rucker had a one-game suspension overturned by Goodell in 2007 despite two counts of spousal battery. Rucker now plays with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The only reason charges against Chicago Bears wide received Santonio Holmes were dropped in 2006 is because his accuser—the mother of his children—refused to testify against him. Holmes often lines up next to fellow abuser Brandon Marshall.
Even if you think they all should all be kicked out yesterday, it’s hard to imagine a plausible scenario in which Goodell—with a tenuous grip on the commissioner’s plush leather chair—might enact a Stalin-esque, retroactive purge.
First, doubly punishing the aforementioned players would definitely raise howls from their union, the NFL Players Association. Second, the 32 team owners aren’t particularly interested in having their very valuable assets taken away from them. After all, they didn’t sever the contracts of Suggs, Hardy, Marshall, McDonald, Starks, Rucker, Holmes, et al after their abuse became public.
Furthermore, were these wealthy men to take a hard-line stance, you’d have to assume that the Commissioner would have to bring the hammer down on the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, should he lose the lawsuit which alleges that he sexually assaulted a woman a third his age, and “fondled her genitals, forced her to touch or rub his penis, and required she watch as the 71-year-old Jones received oral sex from another woman.”
To paraphrase Fox & Friends, don't get caught beating women on camera and you're safe to play in the NFL.