One of the biggest lingering questions regarding the Josh Brown case relates to the decision to suspend him for the May 2015 incident that resulted in his arrest. With the NFL now using a six-game suspension as the baseline for first-offense domestic violence, why was he suspended for only one game?
The Personal Conduct Policy, as revised after the Ray Rice debacle, establishes the six-game suspension for a first offense, with the possibility of the suspension increasing or decreasing, based on aggravating or mitigating factors.
“Possible aggravating factors include, but are not limited to, a prior violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, similar misconduct before joining the NFL, violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when an act is committed against a particularly vulnerable person, such as a child, a pregnant woman, or an elderly person, or where the act is committed in the presence of a child,” the policy states. As to mitigating factors, there is no similar explanation.
So what are the mitigating factors? Absent an effort to identify them, mitigating factors can be whatever the NFL wants them to be.
As to Brown, there were two mitigating factors, from the league’s perspective. First, the NFL didn’t regard the incident as a serious instance of domestic violence, since Brown simply grabbed his now-ex-wife’s wrist. (Many would say that any incident of domestic violence is serious.) Second, the NFL considered its difficulty in getting cooperation from Brown’s now-ex-wife or from law enforcement to be a mitigating factor.
The better approach would be to stick with the default penalty of six games for any incident of domestic violence, unless and until the player can articulate and prove true mitigating factors on appeal. The structure of the policy, however, suggests that the NFL doesn’t want to impose a standard of this nature, possibly since it would strip the league of the ability to point to any factor it wants as a mitigating factor — regardless of whether it actually is.