Rice Suspension Act 2: Greg Hardy = Act 3?

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Yesterday the NFL discovered the TMZ tape of what happened inside the elevator with Ray Rice and his then fiancée. Whatever Ray Rice’s story had been before, here was a picture of Rice swinging a left hook at Janay Parker that could not be disputed. The League and the Baltimore Ravens came down on Rice hard immediately. Rice was cut by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

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This brought up some interesting questions for the NFL. The first was how they missed this tape. Setting that one aside, let’s look at the other issues. Did the NFL overreact here? What did the tape show them that they did not know before? Has the NFL, who only recently increased the punishments on domestic violence, now set an even higher bar on how they plan to deal with it? Finally, what does all this mean for Greg Hardy?

1.Did the NFL Overreact?

That depends. In some ways the League did what they should have done to begin with. The initial impulse of the Ravens and the League was to largely exonerate Rice for whatever reason. They claimed to look at the incident and suspended him two games.

Everything since has been the League trying to refight the first decision. Rice’s suspension was not increased after the League brought down new guidelines for domestic violence. Nor did the Ravens take action. Now the tape emerges, and now the NFL and the Ravens are appalled. That seems a bit quick. What happened to the new policy? The Ravens might have cut Rice anyway, but his suspension should be six games for a first offender, right?

This is one problem with Goodell’s make-it-up-as-he-goes along approach. Goodell was lenient, reflective on future cases, and then punitive in a situation that essentially did not change from point A to B.

2.What was on the tape that the NFL did not know?

Other than trying to cover up a PR nightmare, the inconsistent treatment of Rice is curious. Supposedly Rice was honest and contrite about what happened. He may not have used the words ‘left hook,’ but he clearly got off the elevator with an unconscious woman who been fine when she got on the elevator. He supposedly came clean. Then the NFL made its decision.

The NFL and the Ravens have made it sound like they were misled either about the tape or the incident. That of course goes back to the old Watergate theory, the coverup is worse that the crime. Is that what is going on here? Do they think Rice misled them? Why did the NFL need the tape to come down on Rice? They had plenty of opportunities to fix things. The tape changed nothing about the incident except it made it visible for the world to see.

Aug 16, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) on the sidelines during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

3.Has the NFL inadvertently raised the punishment bar on domestic violence?

Rice essentially is banned from football now. That is not the two-tier punishment system, because life time bans took place after the second incident. Is the League now forced to expel all perpetrators of domestic violence immediately (once the courts have ruled of course)? If they don’t, will we go back to the Ray Rice case and say why Ray Rice and why not X? I think the League has painted themselves in a corner now.

On the other hand, nobody wants domestic violence. Draconian methods of dealing with it do please me a bit. There will come a case that is not so clear cut. The NFL will have to respond harshly to a guilty verdict, regardless of the truth.

As an aside, I miss the truth. It is supposed to set you free, and yet it just seems to be distorted for all kinds of reasons.

4.What does it mean for Greg Hardy?

Well, it means Hardy is looking at more than six games if the jury trial he received end the same as the first one. The victim claimed to be violently tossed around. At worst Hardy could be expelled from the League. That result was unlikely in May when he was at trial, but it seems highly possible now. This particularly true since Hardy will be the first case in the new policy. I don’t think Ray McDonald is going to beat him to the courthouse on this one.

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  • Hardy has stayed away from commenting on Rice, for obvious reasons. His trial is due for November though Hardy’s attorney has been consistent that it will not happen until 2015 due to docket backlog and other realities.

    If Hardy is banned, the good news for the Panthers is that they do not have to renegotiate a long-term deal. They would also get a fair amount of cap room that they desperately need. They also would have a convicted perpetrator of domestic violence off their roster, which has its merits.

    If acquitted, Hardy would have to be super careful. He will not escape the focus of the NFL, and any future conduct would be treated more harshly.

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