Running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens was involved in a very ugly offseason incident in which he reportedly knocked his now-wife unconscious at an Atlantic City casino, and his punishment from the NFL—made public today—has been widely derided as inadequate.
After Rice’s February arrest, one of his attorneys called the precipitating incident a “very minor physical altercation,” but a police report said that “after viewing surveillance footage” the responding Atlantic City officer concluded that Rice had “struck” Janay Palmer—while video from that night leaked to TMZ showed Rice dragging an apparently unconscious Palmer out of an elevator. (A subsequent police document posted here on Deadspin explicitly charged that Rice had knocked Palmer unconscious; Palmer was also arrested, for striking Rice.)
Rice was indicted by a grand jury on a felony assault charge, but avoided further prosecution by agreeing to participate in a pretrial intervention program. Rice and Palmer—who were married the day after the indictment—then held a press conference in which Rice, unbelievably, used the metaphor of getting “knocked down” to describe how he would recover from the incident, while Palmer apologized for her role in getting (allegedly) knocked unconscious. These statements were, even more unbelievably, publicized by the Baltimore Ravens’ official Twitter account.
For his role in this avalanche of publicly documented abhorrence, Rice was suspended two games today by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Meanwhile, under the terms of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, a player who smokes marijuana three times—during the offseason!—can be suspended for four games.
For Goodell, comparing the two types of offense is not an abstract hypothetical; the NFL regularly issues marijuana suspensions. Whatever his reasoning, the NFL’s commissioner seems to have almost gone out of his way to treat Rice with pronounced lenience. And it is not going over well.