Ray Rice Suspension Continues to Paint NFL in a Bad Light

Vincent Frank
Written by Vincent Frank

When videos surfaced of Baltimore Ravens’ running back dragging his then unconscious girlfriend out of a hotel elevator back in February, common logic suggested that he would be facing a rather hefty suspension if said situation was proven to include assault. 

One month later, Rice was charged with aggravated assault stemming from the incident. According to this ESPN report, the severity of a potential conviction was real.

Conviction of a third-degree crime in New Jersey carries a potential prison sentence of at least three years and up to five years, and a fine that could be up to $15,000.

The incident originally occurred at the Revel Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. And even the evidence leaked to the press seemed damning to the former Pro Bowl running back.

In what seemed to be a story out of a day-time soap opera, Rice and the woman he allegedly assulted were married just two weeks after the Ravens running back was indicted on aggravated assault charges.

Two months later, in mid May, Rice was accepted into a pretrial intervention program that will result in the dismissal of the charges should he complete the required steps. This is somewhat par for the course in the state of New Jersey for a third-degree crime. The probation department has the ability to look at each individual case and make a decision at that point. While Rice’s crime was severe, he had no priors and was a model citizen off the field before this incident.

While Rice getting off with nothing more than a warning from a legal standpoint should be questioned, that’s not the point of contention here.

The NFL announced on Thursday that it has suspended Rice for all of two games this season. That’s 14 games less than what Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon received for a failed drug test. In a vacuum, Gordon’s off-field issues indicate that he has larger issues at hand. With that said, the one-year suspension that he received was for testing positive for marijuana.

A victimless crime.

The same cannot be said for Rice, who has already accepted responsibility for committing aggravated assault against his now wife, Janay Palmer. If the NFL does indeed have an image problem, this is one of the primary reasons why. Marijuana, which is a banned substance in the NFL, is legal for recreational use in two states and medicinal use in half the remaining states. While not condoning the use of marijuana, this is a double standard that speaks to how much the league is out of touch with reality.

Clay Thomas of Fox Sports makes another valid point.

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.

Homophobic slurs should never be tolerated in the football world. And the NFL has indicated that coaches are held to a higher standard than players. That’s not necessarily the point here. It’s the saying we all became aware of during our adolescence. “Sticks and stones.” What Preifer apparently said deserved some sort of punishment. But for him to be suspended longer than  a player who committed bodily harm to another human is absolutely ridiculous.

Back to Gordon’s suspension for a second. He was suspended eight times longer than Rice for simply smoking too much pot. He didn’t drink and drive (at that time). He wasn’t guilty of assault. He wasn’t accused of any type of sexually-related crime. Instead, he made the dumb decision to smoke some weed and was suspended for at least 14 more games than a player that should, for all intents and purposes, be considered a violent offender under New Jersey state law.


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is now slated to meet with San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith in New York City next week. The reason for said meeting is to give Smith the opportunity to communicate with Goodell about how his alcohol rehabilitation process is going and show that the powers to be in the NFL should be lenient when it comes to a potential suspension.

Smith pled no contest to multiple felony charges, including possession of an illegal fiream stemming from a house party incident back in 2012 in which he fired off a gun among a rowdy crowd in San Jose, California. He also pled no contest to a DUI charge from early last season, in which the linebacker drove his car into a tree during rush-hour traffic on a Friday morning in San Jose. Smith ended up receiving three years probation and 12 days of jail time, which can be served on Mondays during the season.

While all indications point to Smith being suspended, there is a chance that Goodell could utilize discretion here that enables the Pro Bowl player to get off without missing any time during the regular season. Remember, Smith missed five games last season after checking himself into alcohol rehab.

Even when compared to the failed drug test that will likely cost Gordon the entire 2014 season, Smith’s offenses were much more egregious. Driving drunk in rush-hour traffic and crashing your car blocks away from a school. Firing off a gun with dozens of bystanders nearby. Still, he’s going to receive nowhere near the suspension that Gordon got.

This speaks directly to the double standard in the NFL today. Beat up your girlfriend in a hotel elevator. Drag her unconscious body out of said elevator. Receive a two-game suspension. Drive your car while two times over the legal limit and receive what promises to be less than a four-game suspension. Smoke too much marijuana and find yourself suspended for an entire season.

Rinse, wash, repeat.

These stories are not exceptions to the rule. They define a NFL that seems to pay more attention to recreational drug use than the harm individuals are doing to innocent bystanders surrounding them in society.

For that, the NFL should be embarrassed.


About the author

Vincent Frank

Vincent Frank

Editor-at-large, Sportsnaut.

“You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” Rumi