Ray Rice’s suspension in context

In news today that was mostly (but not totally) condemned as tone-deaf and inappropriate, the NFL suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games, but no preseason games, practices, or training camp activities, and docked his pay for a third game, for beating his then-fiancee, Janay, until she was unconscious and dragging her out of an elevator at an Atlantic City casino this February. That the NFL has a serious domestic abuse problem became frighteningly clear at Rice’s post-beating press conference (which I unfortunately had to highlight here). Today’s mild sanction did nothing to change that nauseating narrative.

Deadspin put together a list of “other notable NFL suspensions,” which offers some context for Rice’s two-game sanction. If you want to read the list, with all of the details and circumstances, it’s available here. I’ve attempted to distill the list to the basics below.    Continue reading

Should NCAA sanctions against Jim Tressel affect his ability to work in the NFL?

FOX Sports reports:

The NCAA hit Ohio State with a one-year bowl ban and additional penalties Tuesday for violations that started with eight players taking a total of $14,000 in cash and tattoos in exchange for jerseys, rings and other Buckeyes memorabilia.

Tressel was tipped to the violations in April 2010 but didn’t tell anyone — even after the athletes got caught last December but were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas if they served suspensions to start the 2011 season. Among those in the group: starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor and leading rusher Daniel ”Boom” Herron.

Tressel, who guided Ohio State to its first national championship in 34 years after the 2002 season, was pressured to resign after 10 years with the Buckeyes. The NCAA hit him with a five-year ”show-cause” order which all but prevents him from being a college coach during that time.

”Of great concern to the committee was the fact that the former head coach became aware of these violations and decided not to report the violations,” the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions wrote in its report.

Under a show-cause order, any school that hired Tressel would have to present its case for why it needed to employ him, and would risk severe penalties if he were to commit any further infractions after that.

The NCAA also issued a public reprimand and censure, put the Buckeyes on probation through Dec. 19, 2014, and reduced football scholarships from 85 to 82 through the 2014-15 academic year.

The full article is here.

This fall, Tressel, recently hired as the Indianapolis Colts’ in-game video replay consultant, delayed his first day on the job, apparently to comport with the suspensions Ohio State players were facing.

A five-year show-cause sanction is a different animal, though, and Tressel’s multi-week, self-imposed suspension of sorts is not as apt a comparison as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s suspension of Terrelle Pryor. Back in August, I wrote about the Goodell Doctrine and the Pryor Precedent (and the potential Benson Exception), which apparently reflect NFL policy in the context of the relationship between the NFL and the NCAA and situations in which those facing NCAA sanctions seek to avoid them by fleeing to the NFL.

At this point, I haven’t formed any opinion on how Tressel’s five-year show-cause sanction compares with Bruce Pearl’s three-year show-cause sanction except that there’s a two-year difference between the two and the men coach different sports. Right now, my only question in the Tressel matter is for Goodell: Will the NFL impose a five-year requirement on the Colts and all other teams that they must meet the show-cause burden before hiring Tressel for any job starting in the 2012-2013 season?

The Weekend Interview: Roger Goodell

Roger Goodell has been the commissioner of the National Football League since August of 2006. During those five years, Goodell has sought to leave his mark on the game in a number of ways, first among them being his attempt to control and improve the image of the league through tough punishments for player misbehavior on and off the field. Other notable goals include increasing the global reach of the game– London, Mexico City, and Toronto all have hosted games– and expanding the regular season to from sixteen to eighteen games, something he failed to achieve during the summer’s labor disputes.

Goodell has been a controversial figure with players almost since the beginning of his tenure, and the summer’s labor disputes carried the natural consequence of ill will from fans. His most recent decision regarding supplemental draft hopeful Terrelle Pryor has drawn heavy criticism from players, fans, and media observers. Yet the game has done anything but flounder under his watch. For this imagined interview, I caught up with Goodell in the Mile High City, which he was visiting in advance of tonight’s Bills-Broncos game.  Keep reading…

Why is Roger Goodell carrying water for the NCAA?

After delaying the supplemental draft to hear ovations from disgraced former Ohio State University quarterback Terrelle Pryor, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided, contrary to the apparent application of NFL rules, that Pryor would be allowed to enter that draft, and, contrary to ready explanation, that Pryor would be suspended for the first five games of the regular season.

That Goodell would allow Pryor into the supplemental draft was not a surprise. Despite a likely inability to make the requisite showing of “changed circumstances,” Pryor was too (in)famous to be left out, and some teams had whispered an interest in him.

What is surprising, though, is the condition Goodell imposed on Pryor’s eligibility: a five game suspension. Indeed, Pryor cannot even practice with the team that drafts him–assuming a team drafts him– until Week 6 of the regular season. Pryor’s high-profile agent, Drew Rosenhaus, appeared to accept the terms of admission graciously: “We accept that voluntarily. It’s a small price to pay for him to have a chance to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.” Pryor’s attorney was less gracious: “Terrelle is going to [the] NFL because the NCAA mandated that he feed their families but he couldn’t feed his own.”

The five-week suspension just so happens to exactly mirror the suspension Pryor would have faced had he returned to play at Ohio State, assuming he would face no further sanctioning. It’s unlikely that this is a coincidence, since it is a disproportionately heavy punishment when compared with other NFL game suspensions.

The obvious and unanswered question about the conditions of Pryor’s eligibility is, “why?” Goodell’s reputation, as established early and often through his treatment of players like Pacman Jones and Michael Vick, is as a tough, paternalistic disciplinarian. Players who violate league policy or the law can expect to be punished by the NFL under Goodell’s watch.

What was completely unexpected, however, was that Goodell would act to enforce violations of NCAA policy. Pryor has violated no laws, and no policies of the NFL. Why, then, is Goodell punishing him?

The only answer can be that Goodell is punishing Pryor for violating NCAA policies, something that 1) is absolutely beyond his authority, and 2) sets an untenable and inappropriate standard as applied to events in the recent past and the potential near future.

For example, what of Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who fled Los Angeles as his USC program went down in NCAA-sanction flames (to say nothing of Reggie Bush)? What if the new NCAA investigation of the University of Miami finds that current NFL players who played there violated NCAA rules? What if the NCAA’s ongoing investigation of Auburn turns up infractions by Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers’ new starting quarterback?

Does this new aspect of the Goodell Doctrine, the Pryor Precedent, mean that all NCAA rule breakers who go to the NFL now can expect to face punishment from the professional league as well? And why wasn’t Pryor himself entitled to notice of this new punishment policy?

Finally, it is notable just how transparent a departure the suspension was from anything resembling the norm. After hearing the news of Pryor’s conditional eligibility at lunch yesterday and going to post a 140-character version of this post on Twitter, I found the feed full of links to similar reactions. Even for those on board with Goodell’s “new sheriff in town” approach before this week, I imagine this is a departure too attenuated to justify. What, after all, was Goodell’s motive here?