The NFL is Ridiculous, Vol. MCVII

by Bryan

As Tommy Craggs writes, the NFL has suspended Terrelle Pryor for breaking the NCAA’s rules, which makes approximately zero sense, but is pretty much par for the course:

I’m guessing the NFL would argue that the league’s power to punish players for breaking the rules of the NCAA, a totally separate organization, falls somewhere under the NFL’s non-statutory labor exemption, which is the gift owners received because American jurisprudence couldn’t give them Green Lantern’s power ring.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Doug Lesmerises blames the NFL’s Supplemental Draft, which he calls “the rulebreaker’s draft,” and basically says that since Pryor left the Buckeyes instead of being kicked off the team, the NFL has decided to punish him twice, because he’s Terrelle Pryor and not Random Dude: Once by putting him in the Supplemental Draft in the first place, and a second time with the five-game suspension.

That seems pretty high. The two highest-profile NFL stars to be suspended in recent years were Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger. If Will Leitch’s excellent profile of Vick, posted today, proves anything, it’s that he still really believes he was mistreated by the media but is really just committed to nailing his lines so that he can continue to play football. His heart doesn’t seem to be in it, but it doesn’t matter to the NFL, which can’t have another scandal. Ditto Roethlisberger, the allegedly lecherous quarterback fresh off a Super Bowl appearance and, more recently, a marriage. His six-game-turned-four-game suspension seems to have worked like a charm, in that it was inconsequential to the Steelers and Roethlisberger changed his ways. The machine purrs.

Suppose that we actually hold these suspensions up as ideal, and say they changed Vick and Ben, and that Goodell deserves credit for scaring them straight. What behavior is Terrelle Pryor expected to change? He didn’t break any NFL rules. So maybe the suspension is symbolic, and exists to discourage other college players from breaking NCAA rules. To see how effective this might be, consider that Donté Stallworth was suspended for year for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk. Hines Ward, arrested for DUI in July, has not been suspended. Maybe you’d say that he hasn’t been found guilty, so no punishment is due. Well, Roethlisberger was found guilty of exactly jack squat. But he had a pattern of behavior, you might say. Well, do we know that Ward only allegedly drank and drove that one time? No. That’s just when he got caught. This is a case where the NFL trusts the legal system; the Stallworth (who settled with the family), Vick, Roethlisberger and Pryor cases are not, as Pryor isn’t in trouble with the law, as far as I can tell. The only consistency here is inconsistency, which is what happens when Personal Conduct Policies exist: They allow its administrators to make stuff up as they go.

I’m guessing this is far less effective than the NFL thinks it is, and I’ll likely be reminded of this every time Hines Ward catches a pass this year.