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A Deeper Look Into the Recent NFL Suspensions

Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Calvin Ridley received an indefinite suspension from the NFL due to violating the league’s gambling policy, sparking discontent with how the NFL punishes various violations of their rules. 

Ridley’s suspension came after it was revealed that the young receiver had placed various bets on Atlanta Falcons games in late November of 2021. These bets were placed during a leave of absence on Ridley’s behalf as he had been placed on the non-football illness list after playing just five games to focus on his mental wellbeing. 

In response to these findings, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell notified Ridley of his indefinite suspension from the league lasting until at least the end of the 2022 season in a formal letter. 

There is nothing more fundamental to the NFL’s success — and to the reputation of everyone associated with our league — than upholding the integrity of the game,” wrote Goodell.

An important takeaway from this suspension has nothing to do with Ridley, but instead has to do with how Roger Goodell and the NFL go about punishing their players. 

Looking back at suspensions such as former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy’s 2015 suspension for physical and emotional abuse towards his then ex-girlfriend that lasted just 10 games, the NFL’s priorities regarding player conduct come into question. 

A more popular example comes from Ray Rice’s 2014 suspension, one that came after a video surfaced of Rice punching his wife in an Atlantic City hotel elevator. The NFL responded to the video by serving Rice a two-game suspension and a just over $500,000 fine. This came just two years after Rice signed a $35-million, five-year contract with the Ravens. 

In comparison, Tom Brady, a veteran NFL quarterback who formerly played with the New England Patriots, was suspended for four games for allegedly deflating multiple footballs in a 45-7 playoff victory over the Colts. Along with this, the New England Patriots were fined $1 million for the scandal. 

In 2015, the NFL began conducting air-pressure spot checks during the halfway point of games, collecting PSI data on several NFL matchups. The football PSI data used in the initial accusations was consistent with the ideal gas law, as was similarly found in multiple games in the 2015 data. 

It was later revealed in Mike Florio of Pro Football Talks’ book ‘Playmakers’ that NFL general counsel Jeff Pash had ordered that the data be deliberately scrapped, as it effectively proved New England and their star quarterback innocent. 

While rules are rules and violations are violations, the NFL has repeatedly painted domestic violence as a lesser offense than instances such as underinflated footballs. Whether or not the NFL deliberately punishes teams on this basis is anyone’s guess, but it certainly does not bode well for their credibility when it comes to the handling of player punishments.

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