The fact that the NFL suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice on Thursday didn't come as a surprise to anyone. The length of the suspension, however, proceeded to ignite a social media firestorm.
As noted by Gary Mihoces and Tom Pelissero of USA Today, Rice's eventual discipline came for "an altercation that left his then-fiancee (now wife) unconscious in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February."
The expectation was that the NFL would throw the book at Rice, but Thursday the league announced he would be suspended for just two regular-season games, per NFL on Fox:
JUST IN: NFL officially announces Ray Rice suspended for 2 games & fined additional game check for violating NFL Personal Conduct Policy.— FOX Sports NFL (@NFLonFOX) July 24, 2014
The NFL's ruling was shocking to most for a couple reasons. Commissioner Roger Goodell has a reputation for being stringent when it comes to suspensions. Longer suspensions have been doled out for arguably lesser offenses than the one Rice committed, which caused many to voice their displeasure.
There are likely many reasons behind the NFL's decision, but NFL.com's Ian Rapoport believes the fact that Janay didn't press charges was beneficial to Rice's cause:
ESPN's Skip Bayless was among those taken aback by the generosity of the NFL's discipline in this particular case:
I don't know exactly what happened in that elevator, but knowing Goodell, I'm surprised Ray Rice was suspended for only 2 games.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) July 24, 2014
One of the biggest hot-button issues in the league is marijuana use. With marijuana's legalization gaining steam in states across the country, the NFL continues to be strict in its policies against players using the drug.
With that in mind, NBA.com's David Aldridge doesn't understand the logic behind the NFL's decision to take it easy on Rice:
Ray Rice gets suspended two games for knocking Janay Palmer out? But you get four games for smoking weed twice?— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 24, 2014
ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky quipped that the NFL might have had a bigger problem with Rice's transgression had marijuana been involved:
Imagine the punishment Ray Rice would have received if he smoked pot before committing violence against a woman?— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) July 24, 2014
While the consensus opinion seems to be that Rice is very lucky to miss only two games, it should be noted that the NFL doesn't have a ton of experience in these types of situations under Goodell. Grantland's Bill Barnwell wondered what might have been considered a proper suspension:
Genuine question. The NFL’s justice in the Ray Rice case is appalling. I agree. But what would have been an appropriate suspension length?— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) July 25, 2014
Rice had to be fully aware that the discipline he received was fairly lenient. After it was officially announced, he expressed remorse and placed the blame entirely on himself, per the Ravens' official Twitter account:
RB Ray Rice: “It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault."— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) July 24, 2014
As unfair as it may seem, there may very well be a double standard in the NFL when it comes to suspensions. ESPN's Andrew Brandt is of the belief that a lesser player than Rice would no longer be employed if placed in the same spot:
The NFL is not a democracy: @Ravens supporting Ray Rice, would not be doing the same with bottom-of-roster player (who'd be gone).— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) July 24, 2014
Rice is coming off the worst season of his NFL career, as he rushed for 660 yards and averaged barely over three yards per carry in 2013. Even so, the 27-year-old Rutgers alum is considered a huge part of the Ravens' potential success in 2014 and beyond.
Baltimore should be able to overcome being without him for two games, but anything longer than that would have tested the team's depth in a major way.
The Ravens could have taken action against Rice if they so desired, but they instead decided to put his fate in the NFL's hands, according to Brandt:
Another thought on Ray Rice: no rule saying discipline had to come from NFL; could have come from @Ravens, they deferred to league.— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) July 24, 2014
What is your feeling on Rice's two-game suspension?
It can be argued that the Ravens didn't want to come under fire in their own right for under-suspending Rice. At the same time, they took a risk since the league could have easily been much tougher on Rice.
If and when another similar case arises, however, there will be a great deal of pressure on the NFL to create a new precedent.
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