Photo via NFL.com
Notable Recent NFL Suspensions:
Tom Brady (4 games) *** overturned to 0 games
Aldon Smith (16 games)
Greg Hardy (10 games) *** overturned to 4 games
Stedman Bailey (4 games)
Rolando Mcclain (4 games)
Josh Gordon (16 games)
Martavis Bryant (4 games)
Le’veon Bell (2 games)
As we have seen in the past year, the NFL has had many publicity issues with domestic violence, deflate-gate, and various other suspensions. The major story of the offseason was Greg Hardy, a former Carolina Panthers all-pro defensive end and now Dallas Cowboy. He was charged with domestic violence, but the girl decided not to press charges. Nevertheless, Greg Hardy said himself, “You are innocent until proven guilty.” He also claimed that these accusations and hatred stem from racial discrimination, but that is the least bit true. This isn’t a scenario of maybe he didn’t do it because he wasn’t convicted. The only reason he wasn’t convicted is because the girl dropped her charges because she stopped cooperating with the authorities. Who knows what could have taken place in private to stop her from pressing charges? We know these claims by Hardy were false because of the pictures that were released 18 months later after the incident showing the woman’s bruises. Consequently, this off the field behavior lead Roger Goodell to institute a 10 game suspension for Hardy. It is hard to argue what the length should have been, but in all certainty, it should have been at least 10 games. However, Hardy appealed and ended up winning, reducing his suspension to just 4 games. These 4 games meant absolutely nothing to Hardy. In addition, he was still able to sign a contract worth 11 million dollars in the following offseason. Therefore, he only lost about 2-3 million dollars because of the suspension. The year before, when he was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, he wasn’t able to play in any games, but still collected a paycheck every week. These so-called punishments aren’t really punishments at all. He didn’t play football for a year but collected a paycheck for all but 4 weeks. If he is still collecting money and can’t get in the trouble with the law then what will this guy learn? The NFL needed to take a tougher stand on Greg Hardy. Especially for a guy who has shown no remorse, and according to many sources, causes many issues in the Cowboys’ locker room. This is a very talented player, who shows no remorse for his actions and should be punished accordingly. The NFL has shown a softness in suspending players for serious real life issues like domestic violence and been overly critical when suspending players for issues that are not detrimental to anyone around them like substance abuse and performance enhancing drugs.
Another main issue for the NFL is the discrepancy in suspensions. Greg Hardy, who I discussed before, got only 4 games. Others who got the same amount of games as Hardy recently would be Rolando McClain, Stedman Bailey, and Martavis Bryant. All 3 of these guys got suspended for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. I’m not here to argue whether these 4 games were fair or not but to point out one obvious issue. How does the NFL equate Greg Hardy’s wrong doings to the same degree as the overuse of alcohol, marijuana or performance enhancing drugs? Substance abuse has no negative effect on people around them. Of course, it isn’t beneficial to the game and should be monitored and a player should be punished if they fail to comply with the rules. However, Greg Hardy has done harm to actual people and barely got in trouble. Furthermore, there were many others who were getting suspended for the entire year for offenses that were nowhere near as bad as Greg Hardy’s. For example, Aldon Smith got an entire year for a DUI and other minor arrests. Aldon Smith deserved to be punished, but a year seemed very harsh. In addition, Josh Gordon got a year for testing positive for marijuana. The NFL has an awfully harsh stance on marijuana that needs to be taken into reconsideration (many players claim the use of marijuana helps dull the harsh pains of an NFL season). Josh Gordon is a multiple time offender and doesn’t seem to change, but a year is awfully harsh in comparison to Greg Hardy.
Lastly, the NFL needs to institute a change for players who get suspended. Very recently in the news, Stedman Bailey was shot in the head twice while he was suspended from the Rams. If you are suspended you can not go to the organization, have any contact with the team and of course you forfeit your paycheck. Most players need help when they are suspended. Usually, these players are getting suspended for run-ins with the law and drugs and alcohol. However, these players can’t go to their organization where they can get the necessary support to help them stay on the right path while they are suspended. As we have seen, Stedman Bailey got shot. Josh Gordon has continuously been suspended for using marijuana over and over again. Aldon Smith, a player with an alcohol problem who is suspended from the Oakland Raiders, can’t get any help from the organization and the support structure that was put in place to help Aldon get on the right track and stay away from alcohol is inaccessible. Ultimately, the NFL needs to take a hard look at the lengths of certain suspensions and get rid of the rule that a player can’t be in contact or be with the team during their suspension for the overall benefit of the current and future NFL players.