NFL needs to let each team handle infractions of players

By: Austin Anderson

The start of the National Football League season is usually filled with optimism. A clean slate for every team. Months of sweat, pain and memories of defeat fuel the hardworking, hopeful brains and freakishly massive bodies, but now the league is losing sponsorships (money) coming off what is being widely considered the worst month in the history of the NFL.

Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, knocked his fiance out cold, according to a police report, and dragged her lifeless body out of the elevator, which was seen on video. Rice would not be allowed to participate in the first two games of the season but then would be welcomed back to the Ravens. “It’s not a big deal. It’s just part of the process. We said from the beginning that the circumstances would determine the consequences. There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray. He’s a heck of a guy,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after the two game ban was handed down.

Three weeks later, TMZ Sports released the entire video of the assault, confirming what the police report had said. Later that day, Rice was released from the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the league, even though a first time offender should only be suspended six weeks according to the brand new domestic violence policy.

Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was allowed to play in week one, even though he was found guilty of domestic violence. He is awaiting an appeal. After the media questioned if Hardy should be allowed to play, he was deactivated just hours before his week two game and is on a paid leave of absence.

The same situation occurred for Cardinal’s running back Jonathan Dwyer and 49er’s defensive lineman Ray McDonald. Dwyer was deactivated like Hardy, but McDonald continues to suit up for his team.

Then there’s the case of one of the game’s biggest stars, Viking’s running back Adrian Peterson, taking a tree branch and to whip his his four-year-old son, causing him bleeding and scarring. He was placed on paid leave as well and was deactivated from the Vikings.

These are five of the 734 NFL players arrested since 2000. In other words, lately, an NFL player is essentially arrested once a week on average.

The NFL is not alone, however, for 194 NBA players have been arrested in that same time period, and the captain of the United States women’s national soccer team was arrested for domestic violence. Goalkeeper Hope Solo denies the allegations that she abused her 17-year-old nephew and continues to participate in qualifying for the World Cup.

Is there a double standard for domestic abuse chargers for men compared to women? If a man cannot compete for his football team, should a woman be allowed to represent her country on an international level?

Domestic violence occurs to both genders fairly equally. One in three women experience domestic violence in their lifetimes compared to one in four men. Regardless of gender, every minute, 20 people are victims of domestic violence, resulting in 10 million cases in the United States alone.

Former players and esteemed journalists have come out and said they do not believe Roger Goodell should be the commissioner of the NFL anymore. A recent Sports Illustrated poll saw that only 29 percent of football fans think Goodell should keep his job.

The NFL doesn’t need a new commissioner. It needs a new legal system, one that has determined if the league should suspend a player for legal action. In 2007 Goodell created the NFL’s personal conduct policy after bad press from off-field crime. Before 2007, the NFL went many decades without suspending players for violating the personal conduct policy.

Goodell was considered too soft on Rice’s original two game suspension after having a reputation of coming down too hard on other players. The flip side to the problem is with having a one-man judiciary system like the NFL has. Whatever Goodell says, goes, and that is impossible to apply consistently and fairly in the long run.

Another question for this new legal system is should a player be suspended when he is arrested before given due process and fully convicted?

Goodell has made the game safer since taking over. He should continue to do that by handling fines for unsafe hits and performance enhancing drugs. When it comes to legal action, however, the teams need to make the decision for themselves.

Peterson wears a purple jersey with the Minnesota Viking’s logo on it. He plays for the Vikings, and they should decide if he should be suspended and for how long. The Vikings deactivated Peterson, and the same goes for the Panthers with Hardy and the Cardinals with Dwyer. The Ravens also released Rice before any suspension was handed down from Goodell. Similarly, the 49ers are choosing to allow McDonald to play.

If the league is going to suspend Rice indefinitely and allow McDonald to play even though they committed the same domestic violence crime, then why not allow the teams to make that decision? The Ravens still chose to do what many consider the “right” thing to do and released Rice, whereas the 49ers still would choose to keep McDonald active.

Goodell has singlehandedly wrestled with all of the power in the NFL. He is losing trust, respect and, most importantly to the NFL, money from sponsorships. Clearly a change needs to be made.

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