NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has not yet spoken publicly on the controversial two-game suspension given to Ravens running back Ray Rice for assaulting his wife. But one of Goodell’s top deputies, NFL V.P. of labor policy and government affairs Adolpho Birch, went on the radio this morning in an attempt to explain. It did not go well.
Birch’s appearance on this morning’s Mike & Mike was so bad — so totally incapable of justifying the relatively light punishment handed to Rice — that host Mike Greenberg felt the need after the interview to address the listeners who had contacted the show to express their frustration with Birch’s evasions. Greenberg said he was frustrated by Birch’s evasions, too.
“I’m a little taken aback by the conversation, to be honest with you. The reaction is overwhelming and no one seems to think that he did a particularly good job of answering the questions,” Greenberg said minutes after the interview with Birch ended. “I do not feel that most people listening to that discussion feel they got an adequate explanation of how they arrived at two games.”
So how did the NFL arrive at two games for Rice? Well, Birch didn’t really have much of an answer. At one point he said the NFL was “bound in large part by precedent in prior cases.” But Birch said that just moments after insisting that prior cases — particularly the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger after he was accused of (but not criminally charged with) sexual assault — couldn’t be compared to the Rice case.
Birch also refused to answer whether the NFL is aware of information that isn’t available to the general public, such as surveillance camera footage beyond what has been widely distributed showing Rice dragging his unconscious then-fiancee out of an elevator. But Birch insisted that a two-game suspension without pay isn’t a minor punishment.
“It is multiple games and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think it’s fair to say that doesn’t reflect that you condone the behavior,” Birch said.
But the question isn’t whether the NFL condones a player beating up his wife. The question is whether the NFL is willing to take severe disciplinary actions against a player who beats up his wife. And the answer to that question is a resounding, “No.” The NFL hands out longer suspensions for everything from getting caught smoking pot repeatedly, to taking Adderall without filling out the necessary paperwork to — in the case of Roethlisberger — being accused of crimes without any arrests or charges. For the NFL to come down harder on pot smokers, Adderall users and players who weren’t evan arrested than it came down on Rice is baffling and requires an explanation.
Birch may have been trying to explain, but he failed. Greenberg said that in the minutes after the interview, the show got thousands of reactions via Twitter and email and that, “I can’t find a single one of them that said, ‘Well, that explained it for me.’ Literally not a single one.”
After Birch’s unsuccessful attempt to to explain the suspension, it’s time for Goodell to step up. NFL fans want to know why Ray Rice got off easy, and they want to hear it from Goodell.