NFL punishment is anything but ‘consistent’

Ray Rice, the Ravens running back from Rutgers, will reside on the sidelines for the Ravens for the first two games of the season.

That’s because the Baltimore star was caught on tape dragging his unconscious fiancé out of an elevator of an Atlantic City hotel during the offseason. The woman, who is now his wife, was apparently out cold because Rice hit her with an uppercut.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the running back, who worked out a deal to undergo counseling instead of face a felony assault charge, for two games.

The length of that suspension was widely criticized across the country.

Goodell defended his decision, saying the league has to “remain consistent” when doling out punishment to misbehaving players.

Judging by that very statement, the commissioner completely overstepped his authority in handing down the two-game verdict to Rice, who said he made a “mistake” in uppercutting the woman he loves so much.

A quarterback rolling right and throwing left into double coverage is a mistake, by the way. Punching a woman is cowardice, barbaric and stupid, not a mistake.

If the NFL was actually going to be “consistent,” though, Rice shouldn’t have been suspended at all.

After all, Ray Lewis didn’t miss a down after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in a double murder case in Atlanta in 2000. Lewis was merely fined $250,000 for his involvement in the deaths of  Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar early in the morning of Jan. 31, 2000.

Just after he was released from jail, by the way, Lewis agreed to a contract extension with a $4 million signing bonus from the Ravens. So he had no problem paying the fine.

Granted, Goodell wasn’t the commissioner yet, when Baker and Lollar were murdered in cold blood.

He was, however, one of then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s main men. He surely could have spoken out about Lewis, whom the jury found to be a less-than-desirable witness in the murder trial of his buddies, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting.

Instead, Goodell continually embraced Lewis as one of the faces of the NFL during his tenure as commissioner.

After spending a significant amount of time in jail, Lewis decided to turn on his friends and testify against them. He did that so his murder charges would be dropped in lieu of an obstruction of justice charge, and Lewis was freed from jail in time for the Ravens’ Super Bowl season.

The victims’ family members, who believe Lewis very well might have been the real killer in post-Super Bowl fight, figured the middle linebacker funded the defense for the friends he testified against.

Then, thanks — at least in part — to Lewis’ inconsistent and unbelievable testimony, Oakley and Sweeting were acquitted, and Baker and Lollar died without justice ever being served.

Lewis, the only person convicted of a charge in the murder case, went on to win two Super Bowls in a sure-to-be Hall of Fame career. Now he works for ESPN during the NFL season.

ESPN, by the way, took a break from its 24/7 Johnny Manziel coverage to bring you the story of Ray Rice, his slap on the wrist for domestic violence and the outrage that followed. So, the network seems to share the world’s concern about wife beaters playing in the NFL while remaining mum on accused murders in the media.

If an obstructer of justice in a double murder case gets a seat on the same table as Chris Berman, then you’d think a wife beater like Rice can look forward to at least a sideline reporter gig with ESPN when his playing career ends.

Of course, Goodell is no pushover when it comes to disciplining some of his naughty players. A player can actually get away with murder, but he cannot get away with smoking a little reefer. Not on Goodell’s watch.

Take Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon, for example. Unless Goodell suddenly has a change of heart, Gordon will be suspended the entire 2014 season because he tested positive for marijuana.

Smoking the wacky tabacky, by the way, just might be the cure for murder and domestic violence. That is the cruel irony of Gordon’s case.

Gordon, who tested positive for drugs and was suspended two games in 2013, has never been publicly accused of punching a woman or obstructing justice in a double murder. Yet, he will serve 16 more games than Lewis and Rice — combined — for his supposed sins.

So, to be clear, here is the NFL bad boy suspension chart:

Obstruction of justice in a double murder — 0 games

Knocking out your fiancé with an uppercut — 2 games

Toking up — 18 games.

If Roger Goodell is going to maintain this policy of consistency in punishing bad deeds, I’d sure hate to be the next NFL player busted for jaywalking.

—Bill Foley, who apparently has given up on ever working for ESPN or the NFL Network, writes a column that appears on on Tuesdays. Email him at Follow him at

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