The first few weeks of the NFL season is usually a celebratory occasion. Through two weeks of the 2014 season, it has been anything but.
Throughout the preseason, the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens were under attack after the release of a video showing former Ravens running back Ray Rice dragging his then fiancé, Janay Rice, out of a hotel elevator unconscious.
After an investigation organized by the NFL in which the video was at the forefront of evidence was reviewed, the NFL slapped a two-game suspension on Rice and presumably hoped this fracas would eventually blow over.
Later, TMZ released the video of Rice in the elevator swinging two punches towards his now wife, knocking her unconscious with the second blow.
The internet erupted. If TMZ could get this video and release it to the public, the NFL surely must have seen it, right?
Goodell and the NFL claim they never saw the tape. A report from the Associated Press claims law enforcement sent the tape to NFL offices after they had requested it. As of Tuesday, Sept. 16, we’re still in the dark about it all.
Regardless, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell are in a deep PR hole.
But it’s not only the Rice controversy that has brought criticism upon the NFL. Within the past week, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and Vikings All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson have been under fire for abuse cases of their own.
While the NFL jumped right on the Rice case and issued his two-game suspension, the Panthers and Vikings had to take matters into their own hands and deactivate Hardy and Peterson themselves.
With all that has gone wrong, one would expect that Hardy and Peterson will be dealt with by the NFL in the coming days, but what many players, and fans are calling for is some consistency in punishment from the league.
Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush was interviewed on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Tuesday, Sept .16 and upon being asked about the Rice and Hardy situations specifically, Bush claimed that the biggest issue in his eyes is consistency. Bush went as far as calling the NFL “hypocritical” in handling the two cases.
Rice and Hardy are both under fire for domestic abuse, but only Rice has received a suspension.
Bush went on to essentially say that if the NFL is going to follow through with their new rule that sets a six-game ban for first time domestic abusers, Hardy should be suspended six games. If not, Rice should be reinstated while he goes through his appeal process, as is the usual case when it comes to suspensions throughout the world of sports.
A reinstating of Rice wouldn’t necessarily do much for him other than allowing him to be affiliated with the NFL in the interim. After being cut by the Ravens, no team would even look at signing him with this gray cloud hanging over their head.
But the point remains the same. In a time where abuse cases seem to be at the forefront of national sports news, the NFL has seemingly done everything wrong, and many people are calling for Goodell’s head as a result.
At the end of the day, it’s doubtful much will change. But if the NFL doesn’t change how it handles cases like this in the immediate future, America’s most popular league is at risk of losing a large section of fans who once knew this as a game they could enjoy without a cloud of guilt.