Amid the national debate that has jumped off on sports radio and social media over the seemingly light two-game suspension of Ray Rice for his domestic violence arrest, the NFL has come out today to defend its decision.
NFL senior vice president of labor policy Adolpho Birch strongly disagreed Monday that the league’s two-game suspension of the Baltimore Ravens running back was nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
The penalty was handed down Thursday and stems from Rice’s arrest after he allegedly struck then-fiancée Janay Palmer unconscious in an Atlantic City casino hotel elevator in February.
Appearing Monday morning on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike,” Birch addressed the outrage.
“Listen, I think if you are any player and you think that based on this decision that it’s OK to go out and commit that kind of conduct, I think that is something that I would suggest to you that no player is going to go out and do that,” Birch said Monday. “So in terms of sending a message about what the league stands for, we’ve done that. We can talk about the degree of discipline, we can talk about whether or not third parties need to be involved. I would suggest to you that a third party has been involved in this matter and that was the court that reviewed it, the prosecutor that reviewed it.
“But if it is a question about what the principle of the league is and what standards we stand by, that cannot be questioned. I think it is absolutely clear to all involved that the NFL does not condone domestic violence in any way and will not tolerate it in our league. I don’t know how you can reach a conclusion other than that although I certainly respect the opinion.”
In February, video of the incident surfaced online showing Rice dragging an apparently unconscious Palmer out of the elevator. The couple has since married.
Rice pleaded not guilty to a third-degree charge of aggravated assault and avoided trial by being accepted into a pretrial intervention program in May.
In addition to the suspension, Rice also was fined an additional regular-season game check but is eligible to participate in training camp and all of Baltimore’s preseason games. In addition, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expects the three-time Pro Bowler to continue to attend counseling.
“The discipline that was taken by the NFL is the only discipline that occurred, with respect to Mr. Rice, in this case,” Birch said. “I think that, were he not an NFL player, I don’t know that he would be able to receive any punishment from any other source.
“On balance, we reviewed all the materials, listened to the persons we listened to, took the input of the Players Association. 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.”
A league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Monday that Rice has not appealed the suspension, and the three-day period to do so has now passed.