OPINION: Something Needs to be Done About the NFL’s Disciplinary Policy

By: Dan Shulman

The National Football League’s Deflategate scandal is behind us (thank God). Besides revealing that science obviously doesn’t apply to NFL footballs, it also revealed a great deal of inconsistency in league disciplinary policy.

Tom Brady, one of the NFL’s greatest players of all time, was sidelined for four games because of air pressure and a broken cell phone; a hefty punishment for a debatable issue that cost Brady a quarter of the 2016 season.

It’s a shame for Brady; to think he could have just punched his wife, Gisele Bundchen, and only gotten slapped with a two game suspension, a much slimmer penalty for a far worse crime.

This past weekend, when Brady’s New England Patriots took on the Cincinnati Bengals, Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict stomped on Patriots’ running back LeGarrette Blount, earning himself a $75,000 fine from the league office.

Hmm… that’s all. While it’s no taking the air out of footballs, stomping on an opponent is definitely a little more serious than just a fine, even one as hefty as 75K. Oh, and lest we forget that Burfict missed the first three games of this season for a dirty hit he made last season.

Considering that two major stomping incidents – Albert Haynesworth and Ndamukong Suh – drew suspensions of five and two games respectively, why does Burfict get less of a penalty? He may lose $75,000, but he’ll be able to earn it back on Sunday.

When Suh was suspended for his stomping incident, it was the fifth time the NFL had disciplined him. Burfict’s fine was the sixth time he had been disciplined by the NFL.

Where’s the consistency?

The guy was just suspended to start the year for playing dirty, he does it again, gets a slap on the wrist, and will suit up again Sunday to stomp his next opponent? That doesn’t sound right.

When it comes to the NFL drug policy, at least it’s consistent there though, right?


Josh Gordon, a Cleveland Browns wide receiver, has been suspended four different times for drug use and has even been denied reinstatement. The player has recently entered rehab in the hopes of getting cleaned up, all the while being allowed back into the league.

Former Jacksonville wide receiver Justin Blackmon has been suspended for three separate drug violations, and is indefinitely denied reinstatement by the league.

Le’Veon Bell, current Pittsburgh Steelers running-back, got a four-game suspension in 2015 for a marijuana arrest, later reduced to two. At the start of this season, Bell was suspended for three games for, you guessed it, the same thing.

Yup, real consistent, NFL!

Domestic violence is certainly stressed by the NFL right? Well, yes, but still not consistent.

Greg Hardy, former defensive lineman turned Mixed Martial Arts fighter, was suspended four games for a domestic violence issue last season. He reportedly threatened then tossed his girlfriend onto a pile a firearms and various other weapons. Originally handed a ten game suspension, it was later reduced to four.

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings running back, was suspended for almost an entire season for child abuse accusations. Ray Rice, former Ravens running back, only two games for hitting his wife. While both crimes are severe, there’s really no difference between the two. So why didn’t both get the same suspensions?

Josh Brown was just released by the New York Giants after his domestic violence dispute got so far out of hand, courts had to get involved. Roger Goodell’s punishment? A measly one-game suspension.

Okay, we’ll try one more. Murder is certainly worthy of equal discipline, or at least it should be.

Donte Stallworth received a full season suspension for vehicular manslaughter back in 2009 after killing a pedestrian while under the influence of alcohol.

Ray Lewis, former linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, was charged with murder, accepting a plea deal in exchange for his testimony in court. The punishment? $250,000 fine and no suspension. Typical NFL.

Well, even though the NFL made a big deal of amending disciplinary policy regarding on-field incidents, drug use and domestic violence, the great deal of inconsistency within the suspensions is becoming alarming.

It’s more based on a “how you feel about the situation” mindset than an actual written set of rules. So until there is a code that can be followed, domestic violence will be punished less severely than drug use and taking the air out of footballs.

Author: Dan Shulman

A New Englander at heart, Dan is a sports contributor for Heavy.com covering the New England Patriots primarily among other sports. He has written for the Boston Globe since 2014 with a focus on local sports, and has contributed to SB Nation, FanSided, Inside Hockey, New England Soccer Journal, and WEEI. Follow him on Twitter @DanielRShulman.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s