The NFL has long been criticized for its handling of player discipline, earning nicknames such as the “No Fun League.” This nickname comes from people’s opinions that the league punishes players unreasonably for harmless offenses like in-game celebrations. But what seems to be a recurring theme is the intertwining of these cases with actual criminal cases against players and the mishandling of punishments by the league.
A situation like this came up in February 2014, when just days after then Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice was arrested on assault charges and quickly released, a video surfaced that showed Rice dragging his then an- c e out of an elevator. As the case drew out, the video became the center point of it all.
Controversy came about when re- ports were released that the NFL received the video in April 2014, but the reports were denied by the league who claimed it didn’t get the video until September when it was released to the pub- lic. Eventually, Rice was suspended by the league for two games, according to cbssports.com.
Rightfully so, there was heavy back- lash against the NFL due to how light the punishment was. After receiving all the criticism, the NFL instituted a new domestic violence policy, and Rice was eventually released by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely.
On the other hand, there are also instances of the league issuing suspensions too harsh for the “crime” committed. An example of this is Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s infamous Deflategate scandal.
In January 2015, allegations began to surface that the Patriots used significantly underinflated footballs in their AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts earlier that month, a game that the Patriots won 45-7, according to espn.com.
After investigating the matter, the league issued a report in early May 2015 stating that it was “more probable than not” that the team deliberately deflated footballs during the AFC Championship Game and that Brady was more than likely “at least generally aware” of the violation. Five days later the NFL hand- ed down the punishments: The Patriots organization had to pay a $1 million fine and give up a first round pick in the 2016 draft and a fourth round pick in the 2017 draft, and Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 regular season.
Brady lost an appeal on the suspension and served a four-game suspension for a violation that was not proven to have happened, that it was not proven he had a connection to, and that occurred in a game that was so lopsided (a score of 45-7) that it more than likely would have made no difference in the outcome.
Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, also served a four-game suspension. His suspension came in 2010 after Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault in March 2010.
Originally, he was issued a six- game suspension but a few months later NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell lessened the punishment to four games. According to nfl.com, Goodell was sat- is ed with Roethlisberger’s following of league guidelines in the months follow- ing the original suspension.
Not to mention, this was the second time in two years that Roethlisberger had been accused of sexual assault. The NFL claims that the first case against Roethlisberger, which occurred in 2008, did not figure into the 2010 punishment.
The league improperly handles many of their cases with athletes, leading to unfair punishments for and against the athletes accused. The league seems to be working on a case by case system which is leading to more and more inconsistency for organizations and players, which in turn is damaging the fans’ image of the NFL. For consistency to occur, there needs to be strict guidelines for punishments based on the violation, creating a clear punishment, as opposed to Goodell making a decision in each particular circumstance.