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Light punishments highlight NFL’s weak stance on domestic violence

It would be the understatement of the century to say that I do not understand the NFL’s policies when it comes to punishing players who have been charged with assault and domestic violence. But to put my complete and utter confusion into perspective, let me share some statistics.

Frank Alexander, a Carolina Panthers defensive end, was awarded a ten game suspension for marijuana use. Right tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles, Lane Johnson, received a ten game suspension for his use of performance enhancing drugs. Because this list could go on and on indefinitely, I’ll end it with Tom Brady, who missed four games this season for his “alleged” participation in Deflategate.

These punishments serve as a stark contrast to the repercussions handed out to players who have committed assault or acts of domestic violence. The most recent example of this involves kicker for the New York Giants, Josh Brown, who was given a modest one game suspension after his arrest last year on fourth degree domestic violence and assault charges. The police report given to the NFL contained statements from Brown’s now ex-wife, describing being abused by Brown on more than 20 occasions. To make matters worse, Giant’s co-owner John Mara’s own statement that he was aware of Brown’s abusive actions toward his wife now further substantiate these claims.

I understand the NFL’s more stringent policies on drug usage in an effort to keep the game clean and fair. What I’m having a hard time swallowing is the fact that we continue to let players who have been convicted of serious physical abuse charges take the field. These players are no better role models for fans than are the players who use performance-enhancing drugs. So why do we keep rewarding them with money and play time?

In 2014 the NFL instituted a strict Personal Conduct Policy calling for a six-game suspension for domestic violence offenses in response to the video of former Ravens player Ray Rice knocking out his fiancée Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City elevator. At the time, the new policy was commended as a way for the league to demonstrate its “zero tolerance” toward domestic violence.

Now, two years after the Rice incident, we are right back at square one when it comes to the NFL maintaining strong leadership and strict policy enforcement toward domestic violence charges. The six-game suspension policy has been enacted once since its introduction following the Rice incident. Yes, you read that right. Once. And don’t think the lack of enactment is simply because of a lack of domestic violence charges.

Are twenty incidents of abuse really only worth one game? Is missing a single game teaching Josh Brown anything about the rights and worth of other human lives? Is it not interesting — and by interesting I mean sickening ­— that the NFL takes a harsher stance on animal cruelty, DUIs and drug use than it does on the physical abuse of a spouse or partner? Add in the fact that while Brown has been placed on the exempt list — meaning he can’t partake in team activities, including games — but somehow he still gets to collect a paycheck.

Clearly, the NFL still has some work to do if they intend on convincing fans that they care about victims of domestic violence and assault.

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