In February, Ravens running back Ray Rice allegedly knocked his then-fiancée unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator and dragged her body, all in view of security cameras. On Thursday, the NFL handed down its punishment: a two-game suspension and a $58,000 fine.
Rice, who makes an estimated $7 million per season, will miss games against the Bengals and Steelers.
First reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN, the suspension drew immediate criticism because of the severity of Rice's alleged actions. The background: earlier this year, surveillance video surfaced from an Atlantic City casino showing Rice dragging then-fiancée Janay Palmer's apparently unconscious body out of an elevator after he apparently struck her. Rice, a first-time offender, was charged with third-degree aggravated assault, a charge to which he pled not guilty. He entered a pre-trial intervention program for first-time offenders in order to avoid jail time.
In May — specifically, the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day, an excellent time for dumping bad or uncomfortable news — Rice offered up a news conference that was stunning in its lack of awareness. He spoke from a prepared statement that included the line "I won’t call myself a failure. Failure is not getting knocked down; it’s not getting up." This, in an incident involving domestic abuse.
Later in the news conference, Palmer, who lest we forget had been hit so hard she was knocked unconscious, actually blamed herself: "I do deeply regret the role that I played in the incident that night." Rice came away from the press conference debacle looking even worse than before.
The NFL's two-game punishment came under harsh criticism on social media:
Mr. Rice went unpunished in court, too. Allowed to enter a pre-trial "diversion program."— Jeff MacGregor (@MacGregorESPN) July 24, 2014
Last month I interviewed NFL head of HR. Robert Gulliver told me, "We just simply don’t tolerate instances of domestic violence."— Jane McManus (@janesports) July 24, 2014
We now live in a world where speaking your mind has a stiffer penalty then punching your wife in the face.— Jay Mohr (@jaymohr37) July 24, 2014
I wonder if @nflcommish would've been as lenient if it had been his daughter or sister laying unconscious outside that elevator.— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) July 24, 2014
Ray Rice: Beat a woman unconscious, suspended 2 games. I guess permanent brain or organ damage is mandate for 4 games, right @nflcommish?— Jeff Schultz (@JeffSchultzAJC) July 24, 2014
The message to my wife & 3 daughters today? The business that's been such a big part of our life, really doesn't give a f**k about you.— Scott Fujita (@sfujita55) July 24, 2014
It's not hard to see why Rice's penalty drew such protest. In comparison, the NFL suspended the Colts' Robert Mathis four games for using an infertility drug, and suspended Josh Gordon an entire year for smoking marijuana. The Dolphins suspended Richie Incognito for eight games because of harassment that, while severe and constant, apparently never turned physical.
On the other side of the coin, Colts owner Jim Irsay remains unpunished following his arrest for DUI and possession of a controlled substance. Oh, and of course, Michael Sam will supposedly be a huge "distraction" because of whom he chose to embrace on draft day. Just a little perspective on how the NFL works today.