SBD/July 31, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Rice Apologizes For "Biggest Mistake" Of His Life, Calls Suspension Out Of His Control

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A "contrite" and "emotional" Rice addresses media about his two-game suspension
Ravens RB Ray Rice today for the first time publicly commented on the two-game suspension the NFL gave him for his domestic violence arrest in February, calling it something he did not "have any control over." Rice said, "That’s higher authorities. That’s something that the courts, the NFL Commissioner -- those are people that make decisions that I can’t control." He added, "The punishment was the punishment and I never planned on appealing any kind of punishment." Rice began the 17-minute press conference by calling the incident the "biggest mistake of my life." Rice: “My actions were inexcusable, and that’s something I have to live with the rest of my life.” He said he and his wife, Janay, at the appropriate time "will go out there and help as many people as we can to go out there and speak about domestic violence because it’s just totally inexcusable." Rice said he appreciated the support throughout the ordeal of both his teammates and Ravens fans. Rice: "I just don’t know what to expect sometimes because I still got kids out there that wear 27 jerseys. I just want to tell them, ‘Please don’t make the mistake that I did.' I always talk about how one or two bad decisions (and) your dream can become a nightmare. I was truly living a nightmare" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/31). NFL.com's Judy Battista wrote, "I would imagine this is the Ray Rice -- contrite, emotional -- that league officials heard before deciding 2 games was enough" (TWITTER.com, 7/31).

SOME IN NFL UNDERSTAND OUTCRY
: In DC, Mark Maske reports while there is a "measure of support" for the two-game ban within the league, some people "in and around the sport say the public outcry over the issue is understandable and meaningful." Opinion was "divided among high-ranking officials from several NFL teams contacted this week, although it was mostly weighted toward questioning the penalty." But several others believe that the suspension "should have been longer and the league, in their view, underestimated the public reaction its penalty would generate." One NFL team exec said, "They miscalculated that. They could not have expected this level of reaction. To me, this was mishandled. More needed to be done and a stronger message needed to be sent" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/31).

GOODELL HELPING OR HURTING LEAGUE'S IMAGE? THE MMQB's Andrew Brandt notes now that the NFL is seven years into the personal conduct policy shaped by Commissioner Roger Goodell, it is "fair to ask whether emphasizing some of the players' worst behavior is truly helping or hurting the NFL’s image." Although the "number of players who have been disciplined represents a tiny fraction of the population," marquee names such as Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, Jets QB Michael Vick and now Rice have "created headlines with their unsavory misdeeds, with additional news cycles covering all aspects about whether their penalties are too severe or too lenient." The result is "blanket coverage of negative behavior and its consequences." Meanwhile, the Rice penalty "appears indicative of some more reserved and patient judgment from Goodell compared to his early years as commissioner." The shift "could be 1) a nod to the criticism for being overreaching in this area, or 2) a reaction to [former NFL Commissioner Paul] Tagliabue who, while handling the appeal of the Bounty discipline in 2012 at Goodell’s request, not-so-gently rebuked Goodell for what Tagliabue found excessive punishment of the players involved" (MMQB.SI.com, 7/31). CBSSPORTS.com's Gregg Doyel wrote, "Roger Goodell is Roger Goodell's worst nightmare." Some would "call it justice that Goodell is forever doomed because of the actions of Roger Goodell." Every disciplinary action Goodell hands out going forward "will be measured against the discipline Goodell gave" Rice. Doyel: "Does anyone trust his judgement today?" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/30).

REACTIONS CONTINUE TO COME IN: A BOSTON GLOBE editorial states the NFL "made one thing shockingly clear with its feeble suspension of Ray Rice: Domestic violence is precisely half as important as substance abuse." The league "sent a better message" when it suspended Roethlisberger in '10 "for six games for alleged sexual assault, even though he was not charged." Goodell later "reduced it to four games." That is "the minimum Goodell should have considered for Rice" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/31). In S.F., Ann Killion notes the NFL in recent years has "launched an intense campaign to woo its largest untapped market: women." But there is a "serious disconnect between the marketing message sent to this desired demographic and the larger message." The Rice affair "underscores how cynical the NFL is when it comes to marketing its product, as opposed to making real strides" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/31).

IMPACT ON GORDON'S SUSPENSION: The public fallout from Rice's suspension could impact the season-long ban Browns WR Josh Gordon faces for his third violation of the league's substance-abuse policy. Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said Gordon has the "most important thing -- timing" -- on his side regarding his appeal. Cowlishaw: "The league now has to be aware -- maybe they weren't aware three days ago -- their marijuana policy and their domestic assault policy do not jibe with what the rest of the country thinks they should be. ... If he and his lawyer come up and make any kind of good presentation at all, they have to say, 'This guy should not be suspended a full year when we suspended Ray Rice two games.'" ESPN's Jackie MacMullan cited the "climate right now in the NFL and the scrutiny they're under" as factors for which Gordon's ban could be reduced. She said, "If this hadn't happened to Ray Rice, I don’t think (Gordon's) suspension would have changed at all" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/30). Yahoo Sports’ Rand Getlin: "The league is aware of what public sentiment looks like right now. I do think that’s something they will consider” (“Rome,” CBS Sports Network, 7/30).
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