Friday, August 29, 2014

NFL: Course correction

There rarely are any bad days for the National Football League, the monolith that looms over the American sports landscape like the Colossus of Rhodes.

But Thursday was to all appearances a gold-star day.

First, the league fined Peyton Manning for jawing at Texans safety D.J. Swearinger after Swearinger's helmet shot on Manning's teammate, Wes Welker. This proved that the league would, in fact, punish even its clear favorites, thereby removing from circulation that old standby, "Yeah, but they'd never fine PEYTON MANNING for that."

Second, Roger Goodell finally issued an apology that was long coming, saying essentially he blew the Ray Rice thing by issuing him only a two-game sitdown for knocking out his girlfriend and then dragging her out of the elevator like some latter day Oog the caveman.  It was an ugly thing made uglier by the NFL's lightweight response to it, and the league bought itself well and true the you-know-what storm that cascaded down on its head in the aftermath.

Well, never again. In one of the apparently deft course corrections that have helped maintain it as the true American Pastime, the league, in addition to Goodell's mea culpa, rolled out a new domestic violence policy that no one would ever mistake for a velvet glove.

 First offense: Six game suspension, with any previous domestic violence incidents from a player's high school or college past serving as mitigating or exacerbating circumstances.

Second offense: Lifetime ban.

This seems in line, and well overdue, for a league that's had far too many domestic violence and physical and sexual assault issues on its rap sheet for  far too long a time. When one of your top wide receivers (Rae Carruth) murders his girlfriend, you've got a serious problem. When one of your top quarterbacks (Ben Roethlisberger) gets charged not once but twice for sexual crimes, in two different parts of the country, you've got a serious problem.

The NFL didn't move after either of those incidents, nor many subsequent others. And it was only after a huge public outcry that it moved on this one.

So maybe, in retrospect, this course correction wasn't so deft after all. But at least the league finally made it.

Make Thursday a silver-star day, in that case.

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