NFL’s message on Josh Gordon and Ray Rice: marijuana is worse than violence against women


With the news that Baltimore Ravens runningback Ray Rice has been suspended for a mere two games by the NFL for domestic violence against his girlfriend, I felt it was time to do a special on this issue. Call it a Monday Morning Realist on a Thursday.

Today, Rice was suspended for the first two games of the 2014 NFL season. The Ravens play two divisional opponents in both the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers the first two weeks of the season. Both games will be at home in M&T Bank Stadium. In fact, the Ravens begin the season by playing all three of their divisional rivals in the first three weeks as they face the Cleveland Browns in Week 3.

Those first two games are potential losses, given that the Bengals are the class of the AFC North and the Steelers are likely to be much improved this year after nearly surging to a playoff berth in the second half of last season.
If it sounds like Ray Rice got a slap on the wrist from Commissioner Roger Goodell, your hearing is top notch, Realists. Two games for beating up your girlfriend (now wife). In a perfect world, Rice is lucky it’s not two months—or two seasons. Plus, he is still going to be eligible to play in preseason games for the Ravens.

But, contrast that with what happened in the same division to the Browns’ Josh Gordon—who was suspended for a year for smoking marijuana and failing a drug test (a violation of the NFL’s anti-drug policy). Gordon plans to appeal said suspension in a week on August 1st.

So, the NFL has decided that smoking a joint is a worse crime than beating up your significant other. No, scratch that…the league has decided that smoking a joint is a worse crime than beating up a woman.

How’s that for a healthy public relations message to your female audience, Park Avenue?

The immediate defense that many (usually fans of the team that has the player going through the transgression) use is that the legal process has to play itself since it hasn’t been proven in a court of law.

It was the defense used for Michael Vick when he was being investigated for dogfighting in Hampton Roads, Virginia. It was used for Adam “Pacman” Jones when he was going through his various issues in the early portions of his career with the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals. It was even used for another notable Baltimore Raven—Ray Lewis when he was on trial for murder.

That defense somewhat goes out the window when Rice is seen on tape physically abusing his wife, Janay Palmer. What is worse is that Palmer is still with Rice and MARRIED him. Any self-respecting woman would have left a man the moment he puts his hands on her in a physically imposing manner.

Considering that, personally, I have family and friends who are females who have been taken advantage of and traumatized by the cowardly actions of other men, this is an issue that hits home for me as it does for many who have seen their loved ones in the same situation.

But, that’s another column for another time.

What kind of a message is the NFL trying to send to a female fanbase when it basically says that domestic violence is okay, the player who did it will only get two games, can still play in the preseason, and will only see a dent in his annual paycheck for the year?

If Gordon gets a year-long suspension for smoking marijuana, then Rice should have received two years without pay for domestic violence. The happiest man right now hearing that announcement could have very well been Gordon, because his case for his appeal just became all the more interesting. No way Gordon should get more games for weed than Rice received for beating up his significant other.

And then, there’s that whole thing about Mary Jane actually being legalized in small amounts in two states (ironically, the two states that were represented in the Super Bowl in January—Colorado and Washington).

Do we once again have to go back to the culture of NFL locker rooms where seemingly if you try to profess yourself as anything less than a macho-man that you are almost immediately blacklisted from their circles?

Not necessarily. What we need to do is go to the culture of NFL board rooms. Realists, I can understand how stunned everyone is that Goodell only gave Rice two games and nearly nothing in terms of lost pay. But, when you look at the lack of gender (and racial) diversity in the NFL’s board room, it makes you think, of course they would do this.

I don’t want to go out on a limb, but my guess is that if there were more women within the halls of the executive offices (ownership structure) of the NFL that Rice would have received the year (or 2 year) long suspension he rightfully deserved.

And this is a league that regularly celebrates “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” by decking out their players, coaches, playing fields, and even cheerleaders in pink.


As much as these pom-ladies may be eye candy for (predominantly) male football aficionados, the underbelly of professional cheerleading in the league has been exposed this year more than ever. Numerous cheerleading teams, including the Bills, Bengals, Jets, and Raiders’ cheerleaders have filed lawsuits against their respective teams alleging sexism and violation of minimum wage laws.

In fact, the Bills were so scared by the fact that they (and their former flagship radio station) were sued that the “Jills” will not be on the sidelines at Ralph Wilson Stadium this year.

To make a long story short, the NFL just created a public relations nightmare for itself by sending a message that it really has no stance on the issue of violence against women. Players in the past have received suspensions of longer than two games for on-field actions as well as simply for allegations of wrongdoing.

The league cannot continue to tout its Breast Cancer Awareness Month (which nets money for the league via jersey sales, hint, hint) yet appear completely nonchalant towards this problem of domestic violence.

For as much as people in NFL locker rooms and NFL board rooms want to manufacture a distraction in Michael Sam being a gay player in the league, this is a real distraction that Ray Rice created for himself and his team by committing the cowardly act of putting his hands on a woman.

A distraction that the league just made worse by saying that hitting a woman is not as bad as hitting a blunt.