Commentary: Roger Goodell’s Justice Is No Justice at All

NFL commissioner hands RB Ray Rice a light sentence for violence against a woman.

Posted: 07/25/2014 11:54 AM EDT
Roger Goodell

Commissioner Roger Goodell’s light-as-snowflakes-ruling against Ray Rice for violating the NFL’s sham of a “Personal Conduct Policy” told women what the league thought of them.

Ladies, we like that you watch football. We like that you buy NFL merchandise. We love that you give us your money, but if one of our players punches you in the face, well, hell — sorry, but you are on your own, homegirl.

Now, Goodell didn’t exactly spin his ruling Thursday against Rice, a star running back for the Baltimore Ravens, in those oh-so-clever words. Mike Freeman, the lead NFL writer for Bleacher Report, did.

Freeman’s words proved far more reflective of the punishment Goodell handed Rice for reportedly beating his then-fiancée Janay Palmer unconscious on Feb. 15 inside an Atlantic City casino.

A video captured the altercation, and after interviewing the contrite Rice, Goodell had all the evidence he needed to rule.

“The league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game,” Goodell said in a statement. “This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women."

Goodell’s words sounded like those of a hanging judge, but the actions that followed them spoke to how Freeman had adjudged Rice’s two-game sentence.

Two games!

That’s no sort of justice, and disregard the fact that Rice has since married Palmer. Conduct like his must be handled without mercy; Goodell’s words suggested it would. 

But Goodell passed up a chance to do what not even the New Jersey courts did: make Rice pay dearly for violence against a woman.

 The NFL has problems, and domestic violence has long been among them. Time and time again, stories make headlines about a pro or college athlete battering a woman. Such stories are unsettling, as video of Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée showed.

 But too much conduct in the NFL is unsettling and threatening its brand. Just look at the string of DUI arrests and the violations of drug policies, and Goodell might need to keep a stable of criminal lawyers on retainer to get his caseload cleared faster.

Of course, no one wants a commissioner to rush to a judgment, and Goodell doesn’t want to sit a star if he doesn’t have to.

Ray Rice, a three-time Pro Bowler, is a star, but that doesn’t excuse his behavior. His stardom doesn’t justify a light sentence either.

For what lesson does Goodell, the steward of the game, teach when he’s more lenient of Rice’s violence against a woman than he is of a man who uses the crown of his helmet in tackling another player?

Rice’s two-game suspension is an injustice to all NFL players that Goodell has suspended for what they did on the field. Even worse, his ruling was an affront to the growing number of women who call themselves football fans.

They deserved better.

So, homegirl, if it was justice for Ray Rice or for you, Goodell decided: You lost.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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