Sports

New NFL Policy Tougher on Wife Beaters Than Pot Smokers, But It's Close

The league had a chance to start changing this perception last week, but unfortunately it dropped the ball.

|

Josh Gordon
Erik Daniel Drost / Flickr

The NFL Players Association approved a new, liberalized drug policy last week that increases the threshold for what's considered a positive test for marijuana. This comes almost 15 days after the league stiffened penalties for players involved in domestic abuse, and both changes are no doubt moves to repair the rapidly decaying image of the league in the wake of the Ray Rice elevator video.

Over the last few weeks, the league was harshly criticized by Reason and other publications for suspending wide receiver Josh Gordon for an entire season as a result of a positive marijuana test, while sidelining Rice for just two games after he was accused of beating his then-girlfriend and now-wife, Janay Rice, unconscious in a casino elevator. The more lenient punishment was scrutinized even before TMZ released video footage of the incident last week; Rice, who is 206 pounds of solid muscle, repeatedly punched Janay and then nonchalantly dragged her body out of the elevator.

The leak of the video intensified criticisms from the broader media to the point where Rice became the top story for talk shows and news sources around the country. As a result of the outrage, Rice was cut from the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely. Gordon, on the other hand, is reportedly set to return to the Cleveland Browns after between eight and 10 games.

At first glance, that might seem like a step in the right direction for those who think that beating a woman is worse than smoking weed. However, the damage-control measures are far too little and too late.

For starters, Gordon's eight-to-10-game punishment is still more than the six-game ban that the new domestic abuse policy prescribes. Even though Gordon is considered a multiple offender—he was kicked off Baylor University's team in college for positive marijuana tests and served a two-game suspension last season for testing positive for the banned substance codeine—handing down suspensions that both range at around a half season shows that the NFL sees little difference between violent and nonviolent crimes.

Further cheapening the change is the fact that the league still has one of the strictest, if not the strictest, marijuana policies of all the major sports leagues in the world. Despite the fact that the threshold for a positive marijuana test was more than doubled from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 35 ng/ml, it still pales in comparison to the MLB's 50 ng/ml, not to mention the Olympics' and World Anti-Doping Agency's 150 ng/ml. (American hero and documented pot smoker Michael Phelps may have never had the chance to become the most decorated Olympian of all time if the Olympics held the same draconian standards as the NFL.)

And what's still a mystery is that Gordon is suspended at all. His urine sample only registered 16 ng/ml, which is a mere one ng/ml in excess of the old positive threshold and less than half of the new limit.

Therefore, it would seem he should either still be suspended indefinitely, or not suspended at all. In the coming days, details about the new drug policy might clarify why Gordon still has to miss games, but it's hard not to see how this compromise as an attempt by league officials to appease critics while also maintaining that they didn't totally give in to public pressure.

Sports has been touted as a reflection of society's values—if not a precursor of what society is to become—ever since Jackie Robinson became the first black Major League Baseball player in 1947, more than a decade before the civil rights movement. Unfortunately, the NFL is manifesting the opposite phenomenon: In the last year, we've heard appalling stories such as Miami Dolphins players mercilessly harassing a teammate to the point where he had a near-mental breakdown, league ambassador Tony Dungy saying he wouldn't draft first openly gay player Michael Sam because he'd be a "distraction," and just this week superstar running back Adrian Peterson allegedly beating his child bloody with a tree branch—just to name a few headlines.

Instead of heralding the progress of civil society, the NFL seems to serve as a nasty reminder that racism, bullying, domestic violence, child abuse, and anti-homosexual sentiments are still acceptable to a large part of the country.

The league had a chance to start changing this perception last week, but unfortunately it dropped the ball by maintaining that smoking a joint is a comparable offense to beating a woman unconscious.

Advertisement

NEXT: It's Constitution Day (Not That Obama Cares, ZING), Lindsey Graham is Nuts, About That Whole 'No Ground Troops' Thing... A.M. Links

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The NFL should just let the Twittermob set the rules and penalties.

    1. That’s already what’s happening, just with more pomp and circumstance.

    2. In both the Rice and Peterson cases the NFL seems to have let their advertisers and sponsors set the rules and penalties. These are the NFL’s primary customers, so that’s how it should be.

      1. And it’s a mistake none of these off the field issues would cause a decline in viewership which is ultimately why the Ad people are customers in the first place.

        1. They have a longer view. It’s about maintaining the integrity of the product and the brand. There’s a symbiosis to it – advertisers don’t want to lose a good thing.

          1. They won’t. I would contend people have a short memory and love football.

            1. People love football because of careful brand building. There’s always something new around the corner. Nobody wants to caught flat-footed.

              Regardless, if the advertisers are wrong, then that’s their problem. They’re the ones deciding how to spend their own money.

  2. I think we can all agree that children seeing their role models do drugs is far more dangerous than seeing their role models smack their bitch up.

    1. Obviously, you have to be stern with your women every once in a while.

    2. I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one ‘cuz I knocked her ass out.

  3. There’s a word for taking males from one demographic disproportionately, many of whom come from the bottom of the income scale, and not just expecting them to defy statistical gravity by being much better about things like marijuana consumption than the statistical averages for the socioeconomic group they grew up in–but also expecting them to appease the irrational preconceptions of suburban soccer moms on all sorts of other behavioral standards…

    The word is “racist”. The NFL’s marijuana policy is objectively racist–just like the Drug War itself is racist.

    1. I wouldn’t say racist as much as just fucking stupid.

    2. Even worse, the socioeconomic group they grew up in is actually not statistically different from the average marijuana consumption of the nation as a whole, as has been pointed out by many, including various Reason authors. They’re just disproportionally likely to be busted for that behavior.

      1. I would argue that adjusted for economic factors, they probably are statistically more likely to be involved in certain behaviors–more so than what Soccer Moms in the suburbs are used to.

        And that’s what the NFL is trying to appease, here. They’re trying to make their product acceptable to white, Soccer Moms. Sorry, making poor black 20 year old kids conform to some imaginary standard that white suburban Soccer Moms dreamed up isn’t just irrational…

        There’s a word for it.

        Again, it’s the same thing driving a lot of the support for the Drug War. It’s to appease white, suburban Soccer Moms that the government is doing everything it can to protect suburban children from the realities of…urban America.

        Those suburbanites don’t want their kids cheering for thugs. Oh, we’ve got trouble. Right here in River City! With a capital “T” and that rhymes with “B” and…we all know who that stands for.

    3. It’s racist to think blacks in the same income bracket as whites can follow the same policy? I’d say it’s racist to assume they’re too stupid, or lack control. How racist would it be to say here’s our policy for blacks and our policy for whites? The policy is stupid, not racist.

      1. We’re not talking about blacks in the same income brackets.

        A lot of these kids are coming from the rural South. Do you know what rural poverty in the South is like?

        It isn’t anything like white, suburban society. The kids coming from the inner cities aren’t all coming from the same economic background as suburban white moms, either.

        In much of urban America? You don’t join a gang. You have no choice. You’re affiliated because of where you live. Everyone has friends they grew up with who are active gang members in these areas–if you didn’t, it meant you never came out of your house.

        This is not the reality of the suburban Soccer Moms the NFL is trying to appease with its stupid marijuana policy.

        They’re doing the same kind of thing to Adrian Peterson. AP grew up, where, in rural Texas? Growing up in rural Texas, I bet AP never got a “time out” in his life. That’s a middle class thing. That’s in the suburbs.

    4. *The word is “racist”. The NFL’s marijuana policy is objectively racist–just like the Drug War itself is racist.*

      Blame the NFLPA, as well, since they were in on the bargaining for this policy. I guess the NFLPA is a bunch of racists, too, right?

      Fool.

    5. This ^. Though racist is a pretty strong word. Maybe just unreasonable.

  4. “Rice, who is 206 pounds of solid muscle, repeatedly punched Janay…”

    Did you and I watch the same video?

    1. The NFL’s disciplinary code is a means for white suburbanites to pillory black, poor people by proxy–while avoiding the charge of racism.

      Why get lost in the details?

      They’re all thugs! It’s thug culture!

      I swear, it comes from the same place we get the drug war from.

    2. The video has been aired repeatedly, duh.

      1. “BACK, and to the left….BACK, and to the left….”

    3. Seriously, give some credit. That was a one punch knock out.

    4. Hit her once after she came after him?

    5. Not only that, but when referring to Gordon’s latest failed drug test, Ken mentions that he failed by 1 ng/ml, but neglected to mention that both Gordon’s A and B sample was tested. The second test was UNDER the leagues draconian 15 ng/ml standard. So 2 tests from the same sample yield different results, and that justifies a year long suspension? Goodell must go, period.

      1. *The second test was UNDER the leagues draconian 15 ng/ml standard. So 2 tests from the same sample yield different results, and that justifies a year long suspension? Goodell must go, period.*

        No, it was the previous failed drug tests on top of this one that justified the suspension, as agreed to by the NFL players association.

    6. After reading article after article on this stupid bullshit I have yet to find a sportswriter that had seemingly watched the same video as me.

      1. Probably because “sportswriters” these don’t report, they emote.

  5. How about the ginormous cognitive dissonance of the NFL literally worshipping the state and its credentialed emissaries of violence?

  6. Goodell’s initial punishment of Ray Rice was more severe than the pre-trial diversion he got from the government.

    1. Come on Ted. I feel better about myself.

      I got outraged on Twitter and my social activism got Ray Rice cut and suspended indefinitely. I am helping victims of domestic violence.

  7. Now there is a dude that seems to know what time it is. Wow.
    http://www.CryptAnon.tk

  8. The NFL Players Union is the absolute weakest in any major sport.

    Does the NFL actually define domestic abuse in these rules? Is it an actual conviction – and on what specific charges, or just an allegation? If it is the former, Ray Rice wouldn’t be suspended at all. If it is the later, they just gave women the power to destroy any NFL career with a police report.

    As for Rice, he’ll be back on the field soon or he’ll have a hell of a case against the NFL for breaking their own rules against punishing a player twice for the same thing after they had all the evidence.

    http://bostonherald.com/news_o…..ion_by_nfl

    1. Probably because it’s watered down by so many players 52 to a team as opposed to 40 in MLB and 21 in the NBA.

    2. See my comment below. It is not just the union that is stupid. It is the NFL. You can’t run a big business and have no standards or set due process procedures for disciplining employees. What is the standard of proof for this stuff? They don’t even define that.

      1. The standard is they don’t care they just react to the political pressure of espn and the coverage.

    3. If you recall, Ben Rothlisberger was suspended eight games for sexual assault, although he was never charged with a crime.

  9. Does Tom Brady need to choke a bitch….?

    1. Have we ever discussed Gisele Bundchen?

      She’s not hot, IMO.

      1. I agree. She has never done it for me. She is not unattractive. But I fail to see why people think she is some kind of world class beauty. I don’t get it.

        1. I agree with you, but what does sarc think?

          1. 5′ 11″, probably 100 pounds with no boobs. He’s a fan.

            1. I think Brady was on a mission to breed genetically perfect kids.

  10. Wait till they turn on the Rent Seekers.

  11. The Ray Rice thing shows how stupid and arrogant Gadell is and why you never want to have a system where one guy is judge and jury over employee discipline. It is pretty clear what happened was Rice was until this happened a good company man, the Ravens loved Rice and the league for whatever reason loves the Ravens. So Rice knocks out his wife, the Ravens take his side and tell Gadell Ray is a great guy it was no big deal, Rice tells him the same and Gadell doesn’t do any inquiry into what happened and gives out the two game suspension. Meanwhile, this tape of Rice playing knockout is floating around and wife beating is a hugely explosive issue. So the whole thing blows up in Gadell’s face. Why? Because he has spent so long being accountable to no one he has gotten sloppy and arrogant. The players have been saying this for years. The league never cared because he was being sloppy and arrogant slamming players. The league apparently lacked the imagination to consider the possibility that Gadell might one day get sloppy in a player’s favor and create a public relations nightmare.

    You don’t give people due process just because of fairness. You give them due process and have oversight over employee discipline because you want checks and balances and you want to make sure you both know the facts and do the right thing. The NFL didnt’ do that and were happy to let the idiot son commissioner ride heard over its employees as he saw fit. Well, that didn’t work out so well.

    1. So Rice knocks out his wife, the Ravens take his side and tell Gadell Ray is a great guy it was no big deal, Rice tells him the same and Gadell doesn’t do any inquiry into what happened and gives out the two game suspension.

      Eh, except it seems that the only person who has been honest in all of this is Ray Rice.

      1. that’s right the only factor that changed anything was the video, bunch of fucking hypocrites all the way around.

    2. The only reason this was an issue is the leagues policy to begin with. If they had a steadfast policy of never reacting and letting the justice system take care of off the field issues and just ban convicted felons than this wouldn’t be an issue. The league fucked themselves by setting an impossible standard of trying to get in front the faux pc emoting that happens for viewership purposes, the bar will never be high enough for those people. the casual and die hards really don’t give a shit about any of this all they want to see is the hits and game, the league has peaked and is going to continue to lose viewership because the product has gotten noticeably shittier over the year not because of some stupid off the field shit of course you know that won’t be the narrative, football is violent they should just embrace it and stop pretending to care.

      1. If they had a steadfast policy of never reacting and letting the justice system take care of off the field issues and just ban convicted felons than this wouldn’t be an issue.

        This, this, this!

        While a private organizan can place any restrictions on its employees it wants, it is completely stupid for doing so. You are going to catch shit either way if you do. The official statement should be:

        I, as the employer, do not have the wherewithal to determine the innocence or guilt of my employees. That is a matter for the justice system. If the system, that is designed to determine guilt, finds my employee guilty of a crime, they will be immediately terminated.

        You are off the hook, and you appear fair to all parties. You will still have some assholes yelling and screaming, but you minimize the damage. And if all employers followed this formula, the screaming assholes would diminish over time, as the expectation would be that a jury of your peers makes the call.

        1. exactly people expect the league to do something because they set that has showed that they will react.

        2. I would go a step farther. I fail to see why the league should have anything to do with off the field conduct. If the guy gets thrown in jail and can’t play, cut him. If the guy gets in trouble but is still able to show up and do his job, let him do his job.

          Whatever debt Ray Rice owes for beating up his wife is to the State of New Jersey and his wife, not the NFL. I fail to see why anyone should lose their job for conduct done outside of work that doesn’t affect their ability to do their job.

          1. I’m down.

          2. Yep. I don’t understand why the dickheads at ESPN think the NFL is running some kind of baby-sitting service for men in their 20’s.

            1. Because ESPN is staffed – top to bottom – with people who think the asshats in Washington are running some kind of baby-sitting service for all Americans.

          3. I can see why you wouldn’t want your “company” associated with convicted felons. But if we are going to assume the justice system actually doles out justice, why do you need two systems?

  12. But what if the Negro football players try to seduce white women with weed. What should the penalty be then?

    /old timey reefer madness

  13. Of course it is so much better to have players popping opioids for pain than having them smoking the devil weed.

    If you just don’t want the public relations hassle of stopping testing altogether. There are some people out there who would be butt hurt about it. What you do is test but test once a year on a date known to the players. That way you just catch the really degenerate and the stupid. If a player doesn’t have enough self control to stop smoking dope for the two weeks before the test, he probably deserves to be suspended.

    1. Are Bronco and Seahawk’s players allowed to smoke teh ganja?

      1. I don’t think so.

  14. I’m having trouble understanding what whathisface beating up his then fiance (clearly, she’s not too smart if she married the guy later) has to do with the NFL.

    Should anybody who beat somebody be then fired from their job?

    It would make sense to me if this were a police chief or head of the FBI, or some shit like that, but this guy is a fucking football player. Why do people give a shit?

    Also, what’s the deal with the “NFL coverup?” It doesn’t actually smell like a real coverup to me. They didn’t appear to try buy off the hotel, or suppress the release of the video, they just didn’t respond to it how some bleeding vaginas thought they should have responded. Am I getting that right?

    1. Pretty much yeah.

    2. Your last thought nutshells it fairly well. Even the article above goes into “too little too late” mode, which is a pretty fucking impossible standard for an organization to live by.

      Example: The federal government lifts weed prohibition. Reason says, “Well, good, but IT’S TOO LITTLE TOO LATE! FIRE EVERYONE!!!”

  15. Fuck the NFL. It can’t collapse soon enough.

    1. Whatever floats your boat and all, but there are (lots and lots) of us who, you know, actually enjoy watching the best football players in the world beat the shit out of each other.

      1. The NFL is doing its best to ruin football. It needs to die as quick as it can so the sport can be fun again.

  16. There is an underlying sinister reason for the “tough on cannabis” stance. By keeping their gladiators pumped up on prescription pain killers and alcohol instead of cannabis they become much more aggressive, entertaining and valuable commodities.

  17. Don’t forget Wes Welker being suspended for four games for using MDMA during the offseason (though he has been reinstated effective immediately.) As one tweet read:

    “Mr. Goodel, Wes Welker popped Molly. What should we do?”
    “Suspend him two games.”
    “Sir, Molly is a drug.”
    “Ok, make it four.”

  18. Don’t forget Wes Welker being suspended for four games for using MDMA during the offseason (though he has been reinstated effective immediately.) As one tweet read:

    “Mr. Goodel, Wes Welker popped Molly. What should we do?”
    “Suspend him two games.”
    “Sir, Molly is a drug.”
    “Ok, make it four.”

  19. Sorry for the double comment. My computer is being stupid.

  20. *Over the last few weeks, the league was harshly criticized by Reason and other publications for suspending wide receiver Josh Gordon for an entire season as a result of a positive marijuana test, *

    When are you lying sacks of garbage going to stop peddling this lie by omission. I expect more intellectual honesty from a website called REASON, for f*ck’s sake.

    Josh Gordon didn’t just fail one test. He failed numerous tests from the time he was in college until he was suspended by the NFL.

    Gordon’s year-long punishment wasn’t something Roger Goodell pulled out of his rectum, the punishment matrix was collectively bargained between the NFL and the NFLPA.

  21. This article is absolutely ridiculous. I believe in the legalization of pot too, but the NFL and its teams are private organizations. They can set the suspensions however they want!

    Frankly, as a fan, I wish they only suspended based on PEDs or football related offenses and left the rest to the courts, but they commit no injustice by being arbitrary with their suspensions.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.