Toughen up: NFL is soft, and that has to change

09/22/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak

Let's face it, the NFL has fumbled big time when it comes to dealing with players getting in trouble.
There has never been a time where what's happened off the field has made the NFL look as bad as it does right now. Not to mention the way that Commissioner Roger Goodell has completely botched addressing these issues.
So why is this happening now? And what does the NFL need to do to stop it? I'm not sure what has caused the recent outbreak of NFL domestic violence incidents, but I suspect part of the problem is the NFL's unbalanced and inconsistent manner of disciplining players for off-field incidents.

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Ray Rice is suspended indefinitely. But originally he was suspended for just two games. The original suspension came after video showed Rice dragging his unconscious fiancé out of an elevator. The indefinite suspension didn't come until after video surfaced showing Rice actually punching and knocking his fiancé out in the elevator. This in itself is the problem with the NFL. The original video showed Rice dragging his fiancé out of the elevator.
The NFL, with all of its vast resources, couldn't obtain that video but somehow TMZ did? The signs point that the problem wasn't the NFL not having access to the video, it seems almost like Goodell and company didn't want to actually see the video. It wasn't until that video went viral, causing a huge backlash, that the NFL got tough with Rice.
The NFL denying ever seeing the video or knowing it was available sounds like a cover up.
And now the incidents are piling up. Adrian Peterson has been deactivated for allegedly beating his 4-year old son with a switch, or small tree branch. Jonathan Dwyer has been deactivated by the Arizona Cardinals after allegedly head butting his wife. Greg Hardy has been convicted of domestic violence and Ray McDonald arrested for the same thing. Hardy and McDonald were allowed to play to start the season until the uproar from the Rice incident forced their respective teams to take action. Peterson was originally allowed to play after the allegations. But after details of the incident became public, Radisson pulled their sponsorship with the Minnesota Vikings and Peterson was deactivated.
The NFL has the power to influence society and other sports leagues. It's already done that with the institution of a salary cap and taking greater measures to ensure player safety on the field. It's been a leader in concussion research and putting measures in place to keep players from playing when they show concussion-like symptoms. The NHL has already followed suit with that policy. So here's the NFL's chance to set the standard on how to deal with issues off the field. And how does the NFL do that? By setting a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence and staying consistent with it's discipline.
The NFL needs to set the standard for discipline right now. If a six game suspension followed by being kicked out of the league is going to be the standard for domestic violence than that needs to be the way it is, without going back on it. Enforce the penalty as is in every case, no if's, and's or but's about it. Personally, I think there should be a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence. This is a crisis right now for the NFL. If the league bans Rice, Hardy, McDonald, and Dwyer for life right now, do you think the rest of the players in the league and future players would take notice? That's taking a big time stand to end this ridiculousness right now.
But that isn't the NFL's history. The league has a history of being lenient when it comes to discipline and going back on the original penalties it has dished out. This says to fans, and to players, that as long as they can get it done on the field, the NFL will forgive you for wrong doings off of the field. Now is the time to change that. Set the standard and hold players to it.
And the NFL should take it one step further too. Start holding future players to that standard as well. Let's take Jameis Winston for example. He's already been accused of sexual assault, charged with shoplifting, and now suspended for climbing on a table at a Florida State student union and shouting sexually charged vulgarities. He was originally only suspended for the first half of the last weeks game against Clemson, until it was determined he wasn't totally truthful when telling coaches what happened. Winston has also won the Heisman Trophy, a national championship, and is one of college football's most dynamic players. Do you think he won't be drafted into the NFL? Of course he will. All of the off the field stuff will be diminished because of what he can do on the field. Well what if a college player was held to the same standards by the NFL when he becomes a member of the NFLPA? What if a player who was charged with domestic violence in college was immediately suspended for six games upon his arrival in the league? The domestic violence issue would end, that's what. And if that's what the league is striving for (and it should be), there are two words for the NFL when it comes to player discipline regarding domestic violence.
Get tough.

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