NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ravens running back Ray Rice is sitting out two games for domestic violence. A positive marijuana test triggered a yearlong ban for Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, costing him the 2014 season.
Critics of the NFL's arbitrary policy toward domestic violence point to the contrast between the punishments and say it's time for the league to crack down on players who hurt women.
Three members of Congress wrote NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to reconsider Rice's suspension, the governor of Maine says he'll boycott the league, and numerous groups that advocate for women and families condemned the penalty as too lenient.
League officials may soon take action on the matter. A person familiar with the NFL's plans says the league is looking into increasing punishments for players involved in domestic violence. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made on such a decision.
"The first time with marijuana is different from the first time you are knocking your wife unconscious," said Judy Harris Kluger, executive director of Sanctuary for Families and a former judge in New York City. "It's not what they did was such a small sort of slap on the wrist. Punishment to me, they should have suspended for a season at least and let him appeal. At least you send a message that this is not tolerated, that this matters."
Rice's suspension begins Saturday, a punishment handed down after grainy video showed him dragging his then-fiancee off a casino elevator unconscious Feb. 15. He has not divulged what happened in the elevator except to call his actions "totally inexcusable."
His assault charges could be expunged once he completes a diversion program. So the NFL gave him the only punishment he likely faces in a suspension and a fine that totals more than $500,000.
"My daughter is 2 years old now. One day she's going to know the power of Google. Me having to explain that to her, what happened that night, that's something I have to live with the rest of my life," Rice said at training camp.
By comparison, Washington safety Brandon Meriweather was handed a two-game suspension for a hit during an exhibition game for a sixth violation of player safety rules. Broncos kicker Matt Prater has been suspended four games for violating terms of the league's alcohol program as a repeat offender. Gordon was suspended for two games last season, and his appeal of his one-year ban for violating the substance abuse policy at least a third time was rejected Wednesday.
The NFL has guidelines bargained with the NFL Players Association setting out penalties for using illegal and performance-enhancing drugs. Domestic violence, covered under personal conduct, has been left to the discretion of the commissioner.
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