By Seth Johnson
Todd Akin – the former Missouri congressman who made an admittedly awkward description of rape and was abandoned by his own party – has called out the National Football League for fumbling the domestic violence case involving Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
“If a conservative like me makes an awkward comment about women and violence, he gets pilloried in the press; but if a football star like Ray Rice beats his girlfriend in full view of a surveillance camera and drags her across the floor, he gets what?” Akin asked. “A two-game suspension for this horrific bit of violence? Apparently, his star status protected him.”
Akin, author of the newly released book “Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom,” likened Goodell’s leniency toward Rice to how the media covered for former President Bill Clinton when it came to women in the 2012 election.
“Bill Clinton’s liberal credentials protect his reputation – remember he keynoted the 2012 convention whose ironic subtext was the Republican ‘War on Women,’ a charge made by a man with many charges of sexual abuse, harassment, even rape, against him,” Akin said.
The National Football League is facing a nationwide fourth-and-long after Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for only two games following his arrest for punching his fiancee and dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator in February, all of which was caught on tape.
Both Rice and the woman, Janay Parker, were arrested at the Atlantic City casino for simple assault. Rice was indicted for aggravated assault on March 27, which could have put him in jail for three to five years, but Palmer declined to press charges. They were married the next day, likely complicating any legal moves against Rice.
With Rice appearing to be in the clear legally, speculation shifted to what Commissioner Goodell would do about such a high-profile incident involving a big-name player. A suspension seemed likely, but no one knew for how long. Goodell met with Rice and his wife in June, and it has been reported that she asked the commissioner not to “ruin Rice’s image and career with his sanctions.”
Writing to Rice to announce his two-game suspension, Goodell said, “I believe that you are sincere in your desire to learn from this matter and move forward toward a healthy relationship and successful career. I am now focused on your actions and expect you to demonstrate by those actions that you are prepared to fulfill those expectations.”
Rice was also fined $529,000.
Far from putting the case to rest, the commissioner’s decision has caused many people to question why players face longer suspensions and larger fines for violating the league’s drug policy than they do for domestic violence or sexual assault.
Cleveland Browns running back Josh Gordon was arrested and charged with drunken driving on Independence Day. He also faces a potential season-long suspension for his third violation of the NFL’s drug policy. He was suspended for two games and lost four game checks in 2013 for positive drug tests.
The Philadelphia Eagles will be without their 2013 first round draft pick, offensive tackle Lane Johnson, who has been suspended for four games for taking a prescribed medication that caused him to test positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
The Indianapolis Colts will be without Robert Mathis, who has already been suspended for four games this season due to violations of the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Colts owner Jim Irsay is also awaiting discipline from Goodell for his DUI and prescription drug abuse arrest in March. Sports commentators have speculated that Irsay could be suspended for six to eight games and face a $1 million fine.
Appearing on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike,” Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s senior vice president for labor relations, tried to head off the criticism being heaped on the NFL front office.
“Obviously some of the things that we do on the discipline side with respect to the performance-enhancing substance policy, for example, are collectively bargained,” Birch said. “These types of cases are not really subject to that form of set penalty. So there is more thought and judgment that has to be employed. This is what the commissioner felt was appropriate.”
Tim Cowlishaw, a Dallas Morning News columnist and a regular on ESPN’s “Around the Horn,” questioned the league’s rationale, saying: “Rice would have been in more trouble had he smoked a joint with his fiancée than he received for hitting her. And that makes sense to anyone?”
Birch insists that the NFL will not tolerate domestic violence, but since there is no collectively bargained punishment formula, the league can only do what it believes is fair and appropriate.
“It is absolutely clear to all involved that the NFL does not condone violence in any way and will not tolerate it in our league,” he said. “I do not know how you can reach a conclusion other than that.”
One reason someone might reach a different conclusion could be the case of Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy. The Panthers recently announced they would “respect the legal process” and not pursue their own punishment against Hardy, who is appealing a guilty verdict on charges that he assaulted his ex-girlfriend and threatened her life.
The league hasn’t moved to sanction Hardy despite a guilty verdict in a domestic violence case.
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Todd Akin, author of “Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom,” is the former six-term U.S. representative for Missouri’s second congressional district. A graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute and member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Akin earned a M.Div. degree from Covenant Theological Seminary and worked in the private sector before entering Congress. He lives in St. Louis County.