Facing heavy criticism that the NFL didn't go far enough in suspending Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games for violating the league's personal-conduct policy, NFL senior vice president of labor policy Adolpho Birch characterized the punishment as appropriate.
Rice's discipline stemmed from a felony aggravated assault case in Atlantic City, N.J., where he was involved in an altercation that left his then-fiancee Janay Palmer unconscious. Rice was accepted into a pretrial diversion program by prosecutors in which he avoided jail time.
"The discipline that was taken by the NFL is the only discipline that occurred, with respect to Mr. Rice, in this case," Birch said during an ESPN Radio appearance today. "I think that, were he not an NFL player, I don't know that he would be able to receive any punishment from any other source. On balance, we reviewed all the materials, listened to the persons we listened to, took the input of the Players Association.
"When we looked on balance at all of that, we believe that discipline we issued is appropriate. It is multiple games and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think that's fair to say that doesn't reflect that you condone the behavior. I think we can put that to rest."
Birch also referenced previous cases, saying the league was "bound in large part by precedent in prior cases."
That presumably includes former Ravens players and first-time offenders Fabian Washington and Cary Williams receiving one-game and two-game suspensions in the past, respectively, from the NFL for domestic violence cases.
Besides the suspension, Rice is losing $529,411 in game checks and fines. Rice didn't appeal the suspension, which makes sense since any appeal for a lighter punishment would have been heard by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who levied the discipline.
Rice is scheduled to speak with reporters Thursday at training camp, his first interview since a widely criticized apology news conference this spring that included his now-wife apologizing for her role in the incident. Janay Palmer was arrested and initially charged with simple assault domestic violence before prosecutors dismissed her case and upgraded Rice's charges to the more serious felony aggravated assault charge.
"I think if you are any player and you think that based on this decision that it's OK to go out and commit that kind of conduct, I think that is something that I would suggest to you that no player is going to go out and do that," Birch said. "So, in terms of sending a message about what the league stands for, we've done that. We can talk about the degree of discipline, we can talk about whether or not third parties need to be involved. I would suggest to you that a third party has been involved in this matter and that was the court that reviewed it, the prosecutor that reviewed it.
"But if it is a question about what the principle of the league is and what standards we stand by, that cannot be questioned. I think it is absolutely clear to all involved that the NFL does not condone domestic violence in any way and will not tolerate it in our league. I don't know how you can reach a conclusion other than that although I certainly respect the opinion."
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