“Agree to Disagree, But I’m Probably Right” : Does the Crime Fit the Punishment

Parker Abate, Columnist

Alaska, Colorado, The District of Columbia, Oregon, and Washington: These four states along with Washington D.C. allow the recreational use of marijuana. Twenty-one other states permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Each year, marijuana regulations throughout the nation seem to become more lenient.

Why is this relevant in a sports column? Three wide receivers in the National Football League, Martavis Bryant of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns, and Justin Blackmon of the Jacksonville Jaguars have failed more than one drug test, causing them to be suspended for up to a full NFL season.

Mike DiRocco of Espn.com recently released an article on Blackmon stating “Blackmon must apply for reinstatement and then go through a nearly two-month vetting process before he can get back on the field.”

Blackmon’s case is worse than Gordon and Bryant’s because drinking and driving was involved as well, which is inexcusable. But, keep that “vetting process” in mind.

Johnny Manziel, Ray Rice, Josh Brown, Ray MacDonald, Greg Hardy – these men, among several others, have been accused of some sort of domestic violence during their NFL careers. The longest suspension for any of these players was 10 games. I’m sorry, Greg Hardy’s suspension was 10 games, until he appealed, and saw his suspension drop to only four games. Four games. Hardy was accused by his ex-girlfriend of throwing her up against a bathtub wall, and also throwing her on a futon full of assault rifles, according to Deadspin.

Seantrell Henderson, of the Buffalo Bills, was recently suspended four games as well – not for a domestic violence issue, but for the use of marijuana. Henderson would smoke marijuana to combat pain he experienced due to Crohn’s disease.

Are you serious?

Do I know any of the specific details of what goes on behind the scenes when the NFL processes these types of domestic violence situations? No, but it sure seems like they worry about their players smoking a little Mary Jane more than using physical violence against women. There is no “vetting process” to get reinstated. They serve their suspensions, and get back on the field as if nothing happened.

The scariest part about this whole situation is that NFL players such as Justin Cox, Jonathon Dwyer, and A.J. Jefferson, among others, were released from their teams following domestic violence accusations. These men are either playing in the Canadian Football League, or they are free agents. Their NFL teams released them after domestic violence charges were filed against them.

Why is this scary? They are no-name, non-productive members of the NFL. The players mentioned above, however, have made names for themselves on the field. It almost seems like the NFL and its teams can live with “important” players beating women because they make the NFL and its teams money. Whether the NFL has that mindset or not, it sure as heck comes off that way, and it is appalling.

Ray Rice was a notable player who was suspended for a lengthy period due to a domestic violence issue, but, not at first. He was suspended for two games for striking his then-fiancé in Atlantic City in Feb. 2014. He was caught on tape dragging Janay Palmer out of an elevator. Apparently dragging an unconscious woman out of an elevator only results in missing two games.

Months later, a video from inside the elevator was released and Rice received an indefinite suspension. The video showed him knocking Palmer unconscious prior to the elevator door opening.  So, once the public gets a view of how bad the assault was, the NFL plays the “PR” game and suspends him indefinitely.

What does the NFL think a domestic violence case entails? A flick of the ear? Domestic violence is defined as “acts of violence or abuse against a person living in one’s household, especially a member of one’s immediate family,” according to dictionary.com.  Abuse. What kind of message is the NFL sending to fans?

A domestic violence conviction has a minimum sentence of three years in California. NFL players who are accused of domestic violence, but not necessarily convicted, seem to have a maximum sentence of four games.

A man, and let’s use that term loosely in this case, who beats a woman has one place he should be: jail. If charges are dropped, which has happened in many of these cases, the NFL should consider a punishment a lot lengthier than four games. Do we know all of the details in these cases? No. But, I will say that it’s disgraceful how a player tests positive for marijuana two or three times, and faces a much longer suspension than the players who have physically abused women.

The NFL is a business that seems to care more about making money than punishing those who are accused of beating innocent women. It’s pathetic, shameful, and flat out wrong.