Roger Goodell has said that one of his primary duties is "to protect the integrity of the NFL." But the commissioner and the league whiffed badly when it handed Ravens running back Ray Rice a two-game suspension for a physical altercation with his now-wife, Janay Palmer. The punishment has been widely criticized as too lenient, a fact brought home in this chart.
On Monday, NFL senior vice president of labor policy Adolpho Birch went on ESPN's "Mike and Mike" radio show to defend Rice's punishment. It did not go well.
"Listen, I think if you are any player and you think that based on this decision that it's OK to go out and commit that kind of conduct, I think that is something that I would suggest to you that no player is going to go out and do that," Birch said. "So in terms of sending a message about what the league stands for, we've done that. We can talk about the degree of discipline, we can talk about whether or not third parties need to be involved. I would suggest to you that a third party has been involved in this matter and that was the court that reviewed it, the prosecutor that reviewed it."
One problem, which is made crystal clear in the chart above: the league appears to have a bigger issue with an assistant coach buying PEDs, for example, than it does with a player hitting a woman.
But Birch feels that the punishment fit the crime.
"On balance, we reviewed all the materials, listened to the persons we listened to, took the input of the Players Association. When we looked on balance at all of that, we believe that discipline we issued is appropriate. It is multiple games and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think that's fair to say that doesn't reflect that you condone the behavior. I think we can put that to rest."
Meanwhile, co-host Mike Greenburg was so unimpressed with Birch's response that he addressed his listeners after the interview.
“I'm a little taken aback by the conversation, to be honest with you," Greenburg said, via PFT. "The reaction is overwhelming and no one seems to think that he did a particularly good job of answering the questions. I do not feel that most people listening to that discussion feel they got an adequate explanation of how they arrived at two games.”
Greenburg said that of the thousands of responses the show received in the minutes after the interview concluded -- via Twitter and email -- that "I can't find a single one of them that said, ‘Well, that explained it for me.' Literally not a single one."
In related news: Ray Rice did not attempt to appeal his two-game suspension, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.