In the aftermath of the Ray Rice debacle, in which the NFL only suspended the troubled running back two games for beating up his girlfriend on camera, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released the following statement:
“Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense.”
And yet, yesterday, the league announced that Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston would only be suspended three games, not six, for sexual assault. And, if you take a previous abuse incident in college into account, it was hardly his first offense.
That would seem to be a direct contradiction of what the NFL said following the Rice ordeal—so why did this happen?
The simple answer: public relations. Winston and the NFL worked out a deal that, in exchange for not appealing the league’s ruling and keeping the story in the headlines, cut his suspension in half.
Considering what Winston is accused of—grabbing a female Uber driver’s crotch at a drive-thru while he was drunk—the message of making a deal like this sends is abhorrent. If you do the crime, but you work with us to quell the media firestorm, you won’t serve the time.
“The reality is that when Goodell claimed there would be a six-game suspension for a first offense, he wanted the public to believe that the NFL now had a strong standard for crimes against women,” according to ProFootballTalk. “As it has turned out, there is no such standard other than the NFL’s continuing decision to make up suspensions as it goes along.”