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Arkush: Rice’s 2-game suspension a black eye for NFL

As wildly successful and popular as the NFL is, many of us assume it has the Midas Touch and everything it comes in contact with turns to gold.

Last week, we were reminded even Midas messes the bed once in a while.

Even with four or five days to think about it, I still find myself dumbfounded as to how commissioner Roger Goodell possibly could have thought a two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for assaulting and injuring his then fiancée in an Atlantic City casino could be anything less than an incredible insult to reasonable folks everywhere.

Just for context, an NFL player who unknowingly ingests a banned substance – usually a performance-enhancing drug – will receive a four-game ban.

When it comes to PEDs, the league has an absolute zero tolerance policy.

When it comes to cold-cocking your soon-to-be wife and then dragging her around unconscious by her feet in a public place, it seems the commish is a lot more tolerant.

The math is simple. Domestic violence is worth a two-game suspension. Accidentally taking a PED that can harm no one but yourself, or getting caught smoking a little weed a second time – which by the way is legal in some parts of America – that’s a four-game rip the second time, and a full year if there’s a third slip.

Goodell is not alone in his ignorance. Rice’s coach, John Harbaugh, was flippant when discussing the ruling and called Rice a “great guy” who “made a mistake.”

Actually coach, forgetting to put the toilet seat down is a mistake, a man punching out a woman is a heinous crime.

Forget the suspension, Rice should be in jail. Of course, the main reason he isn’t is the victim, his then-fiancée and now wife, refused to press charges and was determined to “work things out.”

It’s a classic case of domestic violence if we’ve ever seen one, now fully endorsed by the NFL as no big deal.

On Monday, the NFL decided to double down on dumb and embarrass itself and insult women everywhere even more.

Adolpho Birch is the NFL’s senior vice president of labor policy. For reasons beyond any explanation, he chose to go on the radio Monday to try to defend Goodell’s ruling.

“On balance, we reviewed all the materials, listened to the persons we listened to, took the input of the players association,” Birch explained. “When we looked on balance at all of that, we believe that discipline we issued is appropriate. It is multiple games and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think that’s fair to say that doesn’t reflect that you condone the behavior. I think we can put that to rest.”

What it says Mr. Birch, clear as day, is the NFL believes accidentally taking the wrong nutritional supplement is twice as serious a crime as men beating up their girlfriends.

Mr. Birch, you’re just making it worse. And where did he come from to be Goodell’s body double? Is the commish just going to hide until this all blows over?

Finally, where is the concern from Rice’s fellow players, who, like it or not, will all be painted with this sordid brush?

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has been drowning in moral indignation for weeks now over Goodell’s failure to punish Indianapolis Colts owner Jimmy Irsay for his recent dalliance with prescription drugs, in spite of the fact Irsay had not been sentenced by the courts as of this writing.

We haven’t heard a peep from Smith about this. Apparently, his members beating the stuffing out of their wives isn’t nearly as morally offensive to him.

The NFL had a great chance to do the right thing here. Instead, it has stained itself and everyone affiliated with the game beyond any defense or repair.

• Hub Arkush is the editor of
Chicago Football. He can be reached at and on Twitter at @Hub_Arkush.

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