Two years after the NFL grappled with the fallout from its callous and cavalier attitude toward domestic violence, another case has arisen that shows just how little has changed.
Josh Brown, the kicker the New York Giants signed to a $4 million contract in April despite questions about 2015 alleged domestic violence incidents involving his now ex-wife, has been placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, ensuring he won’t be playing while Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league determine just how to clean up this mess.
With the Giants playing Sunday morning in London, Robbie Gould will be kicking and Goodell? Well, he was doing some rather epic fansplaining in a tone-deaf attempt to lessen the anger being felt by fans as well as other owners and players.
“I understand the public misunderstanding of those things and how that can be difficult for them to understand how we get to those questions,” Goodell told the BBC’s Richard Conway in London in an effort to explain how the league came up with incomplete information when it investigated and suspended Brown for one game at a time when it fines players for touchdown celebrations. Last week, Vernon Davis was dinged over $12,000 for his exuberance.
“But those are things that we have to do,” Goodell continued. “I think it’s a lot deeper and a lot more complicated than it appears but it gets a lot of focus.”
It was only two years ago — after the Ray Rice video — that Goodell promised “Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”
At least he was in lockstep last week with Giants owner John Mara, who was shocked — shocked! — by the events of last week. “He certainly admitted to us that he abused his wife in the past,” Mara told WFAN Thursday, using words he’s surely like to take back. “What’s a little unclear is the extent of that.”
As any number of people pointed out, what is the threshold for abuse? What level of violence against women is acceptable? Only two years ago, Mara said, after the two-game suspension Rice was given outraged people when contrasted with video of him abusing his now-wife: “Everyone in our league — players, coaches, front-office people — need to understand there is no excuse for domestic violence ever and there is going to be severe consequences.”
Some owners, it would seem, are more equal than others and CBS reported that many are not happy with how this is playing out. One owner, whom ESPN did not name, called the latest situation an “embarrassment.” Two league officials, according to ESPN, believe the NFL was disinterested in Brown’s case compared with the Deflategate situation. The league’s policy, bolstered in 2014, calls for a six-game suspension for domestic violence or sexual assault, but Brown got one game before the league was shamed into moving him onto the commissioner’s exempt list after new information about the abuse came to light.
This comes at a time when players and fans already were growing tired of the penalties and fines being assessed for touchdown celebrations and Torrey Smith, the San Francisco 49ers wide receiver, went public with his displeasure on Twitter. He was especially angry that Brown, who wrote of abusing his wife in documents that emerged last week, will be able to collect his base salary of about $1.5 million while players are fined for TD celebrations.
Annie Apple, whose son Eli plays for Mara’s Giants, wrote of her outrage and shared her story of domestic abuse on SI.com.
“The comments made by John Mara, owner of the New York Giants, were insensitive, dismissive and callous. How are you a so-called champion of domestic violence but lack basic compassion for a victim? Yes, this man signs my son’s checks as I’ve been reminded on Twitter. Mr. Mara owns the New York Giants. He doesn’t own Annie Apple. Wrong is wrong. And Mr. Mara’s comments were unapologetically wrong and hit at a raw place.”
Meanwhile, Goodell offered assurances that the league, after hiring more women in response to the 2014 incidents, is on the case even after new details emerged from the King County (Wa.) sheriff’s department, including a journal kept by Brown in which he admitted abusing his then-wife Molly. Brown, it should be noted, was never charged. Goodell maintained that the league could not get the sort of documents that were released last week, even though the New York Daily News had earlier obtained documents showing 20-plus alleged violent encounters involving Brown. One allegedly occurred while his wife was pregnant.
“Well you have to go and get the facts,” Goodell told the BBC’s Conway. “We have asked repeatedly for those facts and the information that’s been gathered by law enforcement both orally and in writing. And we weren’t able to get access to it. So you have to make decisions on whatever information you have.
“We take this issue incredibly seriously.”
Especially during October, when the league garbs itself in pink to show its breast cancer sensitivity. And in the month which also happens to raise awareness for domestic violence.