Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s senior V.P. of labor policy and government affairs, was a guest on Mike & Mike this morning. The purpose of the call was for him to try to justify the two-game suspension that Ray Rice received for ostensibly knocking his then-fiancée (now wife) unconscious in an elevator. He failed, largely because the discipline was unjustifiable, especially in comparison to how other players have been suspended for more time for less egregious transgressions.
“The discipline that was taken by the NFL is the only discipline that occurred with respect to Mr. Rice in this case,” Birch said. “Were he not an NFL player, I don’t know that he would have received punishment from any other source … We believe that the discipline we issued is appropriate — it’s multiple games, and hundreds of thousands of dollars. It doesn’t reflect that we condone the behavior.”
Birch kept returning to that latter point; he declined to comment on whether there was anything Commissioner Goodell knew about the case in order to respect the “privacy of the process”. When asked how it compared to Ben Roethlisberger, who was suspended for six games (later reduced to four) despite not being formally charged with a crime, Birch answered, “I don’t think it’s particularly appropriate to weigh each case against itself.”
And what about PED or recreational drug suspensions, which carry four-game penalties — (and up to a year for smoking marijuana in the case of Josh Gordon)?
Birch noted that drug suspensions are collectively bargained, and reflect numbers the league and NFLPA have agreed to. “These cases are not really subject to that form of set penalty,” Birch said. “So there is more thought and judgment that has to be employed. In this case, this is what the Commissioner felt was appropriate.”
Birch did not know when Roger Goodell will publicly comment on the matter. It doesn’t seem like the league could have possibly foreseen the backlash it now finds itself dealing with.
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