No Discipline?

The NFL suspended Ray Rice for two games for a domestic violence incident in February. (USA TODAY Sports)

The NFL suspended Ray Rice for two games for a domestic violence incident in February. (USA TODAY Sports)

On Wednesday morning, the NFL suspended Ray Rice two games for knocking his then-fiancée unconscious. This punishment is seen as inadequate by many, particularly when juxtaposed with past NFL disciplinary actions.

A closer look at recent NFL suspensions demonstrates the league’s wild inconsistency in upholding its nebulous Personal Conduct Policy. Since 2006, the NFL has suspended at least 27 players for personal conduct policy violations. This doesn’t include suspensions handed down by teams — such as the Giants suspending Plaxico Burress for shooting himself in the groin or the Dolphins suspension of Richie Incognito for bullying — as those are subject to different review standards. In that same time, there have been at least 105 suspensions for violation of the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy, which tends to fit tighter punishment guidelines, although a quick analysis found several exceptions to the rule. Likewise, any and all suspension lengths listed do not include the duration of any prison sentence. So, for example, although Michael Vick was “suspended indefinitely” during his prison term, he was effectively banned from NFL participation for two games after his release.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive documentation of the NFL’s suspension history, but rather a demonstration of its haphazard rulings. I have purposely not included player names or teams so as to eliminate bias, although you’ll almost certainly recognize some incidents by their descriptions. Further, this does not include incidents reviewed by the NFL that yielded no suspension.


12 thoughts on “No Discipline?

  1. I think you got the first and second violation of substance of abuse labeled wrong. According to the policy linked in the article first violation does not carry a suspension, and second a four game. That’s probably why you get the result that third and second violations carry the same penalty (that clearly makes no sense)

    • Hi Cristian, I could have been clearer with my terminology, but by “first violation” I meant first public violation, which is the first punishable offense. There have been cases where players were suspended 16 games for their second violation, which is why it displays as the same length as a third violation. In these cases, the player also had legal troubles, but the suspension was technically characterized as a substance policy violation. I agree, the NFL’s policy there makes no sense.

      • ok, I see where you’re coming from.
        I still think you’re terminology is mistaken. Maybe”first public violation” is more accurately described as first “suspendable violation”, because a if player not in the drug prevention program first strike is a public twitter photo smoking weed should still (as per the policy) only be confidential “punishment” and not a suspension.

        The more important point is that I still think that the comparison between the Rice case and drug of abuse case is unfair. The fair comparison is 2 game suspension (plus fine) versus induction into the drug prevention program, as those are the first offense discipline. If under that paradigm you (and I) still think that two game is not enough, that’s fine and it’s supported by a sounder argument than a apples and oranges comparison.

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