Roger Goodell thinks of Irsay when suspending Rice
The two-game suspending of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has been criticized for being too light considering the security tape many fans and non-fans have seen. The facts of this case are probably just as important as another case that could have played a role in why Roger Goodell went easy on Ray Rice. The other case is that of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.
Ray Rice could have been placed on probation for one year under the third-degree aggravated assault charge he was originally facing. Atlantic City, New Jersey prosecutors allowed Rice to enter an intervention program as a first-time offender, which will likely see him perform community service and be required to attend educational courses to prevent similar events from occurring again. The result is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can use the argument the legal system went light on him, so he did too.
The byproduct of Goodell’s decision in the Ray Rice case is he has set a precedent that when the legal system goes easy on someone, he can consider that when handing out punishment under the National Football League’s personal conduct policy. This new precedent could soon be used when Goodell needs to punish one of his own bosses, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.
Jim Irsay was arrested in March while driving under the influence with $29,000 in cash and numerous bottles of prescription pills that did not belong to him. Irsay has a history of substance abuse with March’s arrest caused in part by his addiction to pain medication he was taking after undergoing an operation.
In May, the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s office announced Irsay will face two misdemeanor charges and not the four felony charges he could have been asked to answer to. The new charges carry a maximum of 60-days in jail and a $500 fine each. In interviews given by Irsay, he admits he is subject to random drugs testing as part of his deal with the prosecutor and those test results are forwarded to the commissioner’s office.
Just like a Grandmaster in chess, Roger Goodell thought several moves ahead in giving Ray Rice a two-game suspension to start the 2014 season. The first move was giving the Players Association something to be happy about since many in the union saw Goodell as too harsh against players who commit off-field infractions. It is also easier to start strong and soften than to go the other way around. As a lawyer, Goodell also understand a harsh precedent does not have to be followed even if it is out there to be used. Since the “Protect the Shield” commissioner already has a strong reputation, going easy on someone earns him points in locker rooms and with the union.
The second and more important move is now Roger Goodell has set a precedent for times when the legal system goes easy on someone, as in the case of Ray Rice and Jim Irsay, he can as well. Therefore, while the Players Association might have won this round in the Ray Rice case, they have also given up their ability to complain if Goodell goes easy on Jim Irsay, which now seems more likely.
To paraphrase a line from A Few Good Men, you don’t become the Commissioner of the National Football League, North America’s biggest sport, without knowing how to sidestep a few landmines. Roger Goodell not only sidestepped a landmine, he also defused a hand grenade the NFL Players Association was ready to throw at him.
The question becomes is doing what Goodell did to gain the favor of the players and the other owners worth the cost of offending so many female fans of the sport he oversees?