NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the public for the first time after doling out a two-game suspension to Ray Rice in connection with domestic abuse charges. The punishment was widely criticized, inspiring petitions and even a couple letters penned by the U.S. Senate. The majority consensus is that Rice’s punishment was too light. Rice allegedly knocked his wife out in an Atlantic City elevator after an altercation. The aftermath was caught on video.
Goodell, however, stood firm while speaking to reporters outside he NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, today, saying the Baltimore Ravens running back’s punishment was “consistent” with other first-time offenders.
“We have a very firm policy that domestic violence is not acceptable,” Goodell said. “We have to remain consistent [in doling out punishments].”
ESPN’s Ashley Fox points out, however, that that is not necessarily true for code of conduct violations, such as the one committed by Rice. Fox called Goodell’s defense of standing by the two-game suspension “hollow” and pointed to the much longer punishment Goodell handed down to Ben Roethlisberger in 2010 after he was accused, but never charged, with sexual assault. Roethlisberger received a six-game suspension, which was eventually reduced to four.
So, why the lenience with Rice? Perhaps Goodell just really likes him. He told reporters at today’s news conference that he was “very impressed” with Rice for admitting his accountability in the matter.
“I think what’s important here is that Ray has taken responsibility [for his actions] … and that he wants to make a difference,” Goodell said. “This is a young man who made a terrible mistake.”
Goodell’s remarks, however, did little to quell public disappointment, not only from Fox, but also from NFL fans.
Roger Goodell letting Ray Rice slide with 2 games because he a first time offender. As the only boy with three sisters i won’t accept that.
— Gregory Joseph (@ItsG_REG) August 1, 2014
— Benjamin Gordon (@Gransun33) August 1, 2014
— Keenan C. Pickett (@kcpickett) August 1, 2014
— Ashley Brownstein (@brownstein26) August 1, 2014