COLUMNS

The justice league

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

One of the first things Roger Goodell did when he became NFL Commissioner was implement a personal conduct policy.

This new policy gave him absolute power in the realm of discipline--making him the judge, jury and executioner.

This new policy allowed Goodell to take disciplinary action against any player, coach or owner that he felt represented the league in a negative way off the field. Even if the culprit was not arrested or convicted, the policy gave Goodell the right to take action.

Many have argued that the policy creates far too much power for one man but at the time, it's something the NFL desperately needed.

Prior to Goodell's tenure, it felt like the "Grand Theft Auto" video game franchise had merged into reality when it came to the players. Every morning you turned it on Sportscenter, you were hearing about a player that got arrested a few hours earlier.

It all painted a picture of a league that was filled with criminals, a league that was out of control. It was a huge black eye for the NFL, a black eye that needed to be heeled immediately.

In came Goodell's personal conduct policy. I was in favor of the concept when it was first introduced and even now, I think it's an important way to keep players in check and out of the news for all the wrong reasons.

But as expected, when you give one person the final say, things can quickly go awry, and they have. Too many times, Goodell has been inconsistent with the severity of his rulings.

It also doesn't help that violations to the drug policy and the new suspensions dished out for helmet-to-helmet contact often rival or even trump the punishments handed out for personal conduct issues.

When compared side by side, it can really blow your mind and reduce you to a befuddled stare.

There have been many of these befuddled stares the past couple of weeks when Goodell decided to use the personal conduct policy to suspend Ravens running back Ray Rice for the first two games of the season.

This suspension is due to Rice's arrest back in May when he allegedly assaulted his fiancée in Atlantic City.

Not long after the arrest, a video surfaced that showed the couple walking into an elevator. When the elevator reached the first floor, Rice's fiancée was unconscious.

I'm no detective, but unless she has a fierce phobia of elevators and fainted, then it's pretty safe to assume she got KO'd by Rice.

You'd expect Goodell to really bring down the hammer. You'd expect him to make an example out of Rice and declare that no more domestic violence will be tolerated.

He dropped the ball. He hit Rice's wallet pretty hard--dishing out a fine of more than $500,000. However, just a two-game suspension isn't going to cut it.

That sends a message that it's really not a big deal to beat up on your wife or girlfriend.

The Rice situation begins to look even more absurd once you start to take in account other suspensions outside the personal conduct policy that were handed out recently.

When it comes to the drug policy, Broncos linebacker Von Miller was suspended for four games last season after failing a second drug test.

I'm not trying to downplay drug use, but it's quite odd that a failed drug test can yield a punishment twice as stringent as penance for striking a female.

Browns receiver Josh Gordon is facing a year-long suspension after testing positive for marijuana--a third offense for him.

Heck, even helmet-to-helmet hits on the field are right on par with Rice's suspension.

We've seen both Ed Reed and Dashon Goldson suspended one game for hits that were deemed as helmet to helmet. Brandon Meriweather was suspended for two games for the same offense.

By this rational, it looks like Rice would have gotten suspended more games if it was determined that he led with his helmet during the assault of his fiancée.

No worse suspension was handed down than the one Goodell unleashed upon Saints head coach Sean Payton.

Despite no definitive evidence that New Orleans operated an illegal bounty system, he still suspended Payton for the entire 2012 season.

But on the opposite end of the spectrum, he reduced Ben Roethlisberger's suspension from six to four games after being accused of sexual assault twice back in 2010.

The personal conduct policy is not the problem. The problem is Goodell's inconsistency when it comes to the the severity of the punishments.

I'm very curious to see what happens with this Jim Irsay situation. The Colts owner was arrested in March for driving drunk, and he was found to be in possession of multiple controlled substances.

If Goodell wants to do the right thing, he needs to come down hard on Irsay. This is the owner of a team. He is supposed to be setting an example for his players and coaches.

What kind of example is he setting by driving drunk with a personal pharmacy inside his car? This makes his organization and the rest of the league look terrible.

But so far, Goodell hasn't done a thing. There is serious heat on him--especially after this generous Rice suspension.

He has to show he doesn't play favorites but most importantly, he has to show that consistency that has been eluding him ever since the personal conduct policy was created.