University of Texas football coach Charlie Strong and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell are different people with different roles.
Besides the differences in age, upbringing and position in relation to the game of football, there is another thing that now distinguishes these men: doling out punishment when it comes to players engaging or allegedly engaging in violence against women.
On Thursday, that was evident with Goodell’s handling of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s suspension and the way Strong went about punishing a pair of wide receivers who were charged with sexual assault.
Goodell gave Rice a slap on the wrist while Strong suspended Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander indefinitely after both were arrested and charged with sexual assault, a second-degree felony.
Goodell’s slap on the wrist
Rice will not play against the Cincinnati Bengals or Pittsburgh Steelers after getting his suspension as a result of an altercation that left his then-fiancée, now wife, unconscious in an Atlantic City casino in February.
Numerous media outlets obtained the video of casino elevator doors opening and showing Rice dragging his fiancée out of the elevator by the hair.
Rice entered a program for first-time offenders that would clear his criminal record and got married to her days after a grand jury indictment.
In the court of Goodell, you get a one-year suspension for such infractions as receiving a second DUI, receiving impermissible benefits while playing in college and testing positive for marijuana.
Also for Goodell, knocking out an opponent with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Sunday is equally as serious as knocking out your fiancée. (Washington Redskins’ Brandon Meriweather was suspended two games for his helmet-to-helmet hit last October.)
But this speaks to a bigger problem in the NFL. Goodell has a personal conduct policy and after getting his punishment, the first thing Rice was concerned about was not being on the field.
“It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault,” Rice said in a statement released by the Ravens. “As I said earlier, I failed in many ways. But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents.”
And when asked about the punishment, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told ESPN: “There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray. He’s a heck of a guy. He’s done everything right since. He makes a mistake. He’s going to have to pay a consequence.”
I would describe Rice as a good football player and an important part of Baltimore’s Super Bowl championship team two years ago, but not a heck of a guy.
Strong, on the other hand, faced his first off-the-field issue since taking over as Longhorns head coach and hours after the charges came down, Strong acted swiftly and suspended both players indefinitely.
The story broke on Thursday morning. I heard the radio hosts read out portions of the affidavit that were deemed to be less graphic, but even those made me cringe.
Both players were arrested in connection with the incident that occurred in June and released on a personal recognizance bond.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to contribute to turning this into a Duke Lacrosse incident where some of the media convicted those guys before their trial.
Sanders and Meander will have their day in court and if they are cleared of all wrongdoing, they should have the opportunity to fight for their spot on Strong’s team, or any other team that will take them.
Strong succeeded Mack Brown at Texas and brought with him five core values: be honest, treat women with respect, no drugs, no stealing and no guns. He let it be known during Big 12 Media Days in Dallas that a good way to be kicked off the team is to break one of these.
Strong wanted the team to be disciplined on the field and be good guys off it. He kicked running back Chet Moss and defensive back Leroy Scott off the team in March after they both failed drug tests.
So it appears that Sanders and Meander are out and even if acquitted, it may be in their best interest to get away from Austin and make a new start somewhere else.
“We’ve been monitoring and addressing the situation with Kendall and Montrel since it was brought to our attention,” Strong said in a statement. “It’s been made clear to everyone on our team that treating women with respect is one of our core values, and I’m extremely disappointed that two young men in our program have been accused of not doing that. With the recent charges against them, they have been suspended indefinitely from our football team and will no longer participate in any team functions.”
It is also worth noting that there is an increased awareness of sexual assault on campus after the U.S. Department of Education released a list of 50 higher education institutions being investigated for Title IX violations over their handling of rape allegations on campus in May. UT was not on that list.