There are multiple reports that the NFL is considering tougher penalties for domestic abuse cases in the wake of the Ray Rice suspension. The NFL was ambushed over the lenient penalty given to Rice and the process that the League took to reach that decision. That negative press has forced them to reconsider their penalty system for this issue. They are looking to raise the first offense to 4-6 games and tthe second offense to a year ban.
Some believe the current stirrings of the NFL are only an effort at better PR, especially as the NFL is about to suspend Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon for an entire year due to a marijuana charge. That would immediately provoke comparison between the two punishments. Goodell would have to explain why Gordon could 16 games for something legal in two states, why Rice could get only two for a greater moral offense.
This could be posturing or this could be real. I tend to think it is the latter. The results of their actions are going to make life more difficult for Greg Hardy. Hardy’s new court date will take place after any change comes into effect, and therefore he may be the first person punished under the new set of punishments. In light of what happened to Rice, the NFL may throw the book at Hardy, particularly if he is the first case that comes up after any rule change.
I think Goodell misjudged the Rice case badly, because he tried to make it an illustrative tool about himself. Goodell saw the opportunity to show he was not the iron-fisted tyrant that he is sometimes portrayed to be. The person involved was Ray Rice, who had done much to provide outreach in Baltimore and so a more sympathetic figure. So he devised this set of meeting with Rice and Rice’s now wife to get the facts right and satisfied that Rice had repented and the wife was forgiving, he came out with what he was saw as an even-handed process.
What Goodell missed was that people at large didn’t have his sense of Ray Rice, but could see the tape of the elevator. He also missed some basic principles about how victims respond to domestic abuse, which would nullify anything the now Mrs. Rice said in front of Ray. Finally he missed how disjointed the NFL penalty system became has people found examples of more stringent penalties regarding pot or getting in a bar brawl.
He won’t make those mistakes again, and don’t be surprised if Greg Hardy is the first recipient of the new justice.