Adolpho Birch, the NFL's senior vice president of labor policy, spoke with ESPN's Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic this morning on "Mike & Mike in the Morning", stating his belief that the NFL's punishment of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was fair and in line with his offense. Rice was suspended by the NFL for two games this past Thursday in relation to an incident of domestic abuse that occurred in February. Fans of the league and members of the media immediately spoke out to criticize the NFL for their leniency. On the radio, Birch stated:
Listen, I think if you are any player and you think that based on this decision that it's OK to go out and commit that kind of conduct, I think that is something that I would suggest to you that no player is going to go out and do that. So in terms of sending a message about what the league stands for, we've done that. We can talk about the degree of discipline, we can talk about whether or not third parties need to be involved. I would suggest to you that a third party has been involved in this matter and that was the court that reviewed it, the prosecutor that reviewed it ... But if it is a question about what the principle of the league is and what standards we stand by, that cannot be questioned. I think it is absolutely clear to all involved that the NFL does not condone domestic violence in any way and will not tolerate it in our league. I don't know how you can reach a conclusion other than that although I certainly respect the opinion."
Birch also had a unique perspective on Rice's guilt in the matter, saying that "were he not an NFL player, I don't know that he would be able to receive any punishment from any other source." Rice was charged with third-degree aggravated assault by a New Jersey court on March 27. Birch is apparently of the belief that Rice's status as a pro athlete did not influence his entry into a "pretrial intervention program" in lieu of the three to five year jail sentence that typically accompanies the charge.
Birch is arguing that the league gave Rice a fair suspension in relation to what he would've received from the legal system. However, within the context of the league's past suspensions, Rice's punishment still seems woefully executed. Critics of the league have cited Michael Vick's two-game suspension in 2009 for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring, Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension in 2010 for accusations of sexual assault, and league's comparatively strict substance abuse policies as examples of the league's indefensible leniency and inconsistency regarding the punishment of its players.