NFL Exec Stumbles Way Through Ray Rice Explanation

Adolpho Birch became the highest-ranking NFL executive so far to publicly address Ray Rice's two-game suspension for domestic violence, a penalty that many found lenient. But in his appearance on Mike & Mike this morning, one of Roger Goodell's top deputies had no good answers.


Both Mikes were good here, hammering Birch, the league's senior VP of labor policy and government affairs, for his and the NFL's lack of a proper explanation of Rice's suspension. (All emphasis mine.)

Q: How did you and the others involved in the decision-making process arrive at two games' suspension for Ray Rice?

A: "I think the way we did that is the way that we determined discipline in all of these types of cases, and that is, the commissioner elicits a number of perspectives. He doesn't sit in a vacuum when he's making these types of decisions, but instead consults with people, listens to the perspectives of the Players' Association, and others at the league office, and ultimately makes a decision that he thinks is appropriate based on both the conduct and the importance of making the right message for the league and others going forward."

Q: And you felt two games was justified?

A: "I think if you look at it the discipline that was taken by the NFL is the only one that occurred with respect to Mr. Rice in this case. I think that were he not an NFL player, I don't know that he would have received any punishment from any other source. On balance, when we reviewed all the materials, the information, listened to the persons that we listened to, took the input of the Players' Association, when we looked on balance at all of that, we believe that the discipline we issued is appropriate. It is multiple games and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think that it's fair to say that that doesn't reflect that you condone the behavior. I think we can put that to rest."

Q: Can you understand, Adolpho, how some people will look at this and say, in the National Football League, a player gets suspended four games for taking the wrong supplement, but only gets suspended two games for being involved in an issue with domestic violence. Can you understand the optics that are causing people to question how seriously the league takes the matter of domestic violence?

A: "When you look at the entirety of how we address issues of domestic violence, how we address issues related to the integrity of our game, I think it's fair to say that we believe they're all important, and we treat them all in a way that reflects what we believe to be the values of the league, and that is to do the right thing, to avoid this type of negative behavior whatever form it comes in. I think obviously some of the things that we do on the discipline side with respect to the performance-enhancing substance policy, for example, are collectively bargained, and those are numbers that the league and the Players' Association have agreed to. These types of cases are not really subject to that form of set penalty, so there is more thought and judgment that has to be employed, and in this case, this is what the Commissioner felt was appropriate, and we support that, and the union has supported that result."

Q: I've got to be honest with you, we are hearing from thousands of people this morning who are saying the National Football League had an opportunity to send a message that domestic violence will not be tolerated in our league and failed to do so in the Ray Rice case. What is the league's reaction?

A: "Well, listen, I think if you're any player and you believe that based on this decision that it's OK to go out and commit that type of conduct, I think that's something that I would, [laughs] I would suggest to you that no player is going to go out and do that. So in terms of sending a message about what the league stands for, we've done that. We can talk about the degree of discipline. We can talk about whether or not you think third parties need to be involved—I would suggest to you that a third party has been involved in this matter, and that was the court that reviewed it, the prosecutor that reviewed it. But if it's a question of what the principle of the league is and what standards we stand by, that cannot be questioned. I think it is absolutely clear to all involved that the NFL does not condone domestic violence in any way and will not tolerate it in our league. I don't know how you can reach a conclusion other than that, although I certainly respect the opinion."

If you can parse that for a justification, you've got a leg up on me, and on the hosts of Mike & Mike:

"I'm a little taken aback by the conversation, to be honest with you. The reaction is overwhelming and no one seems to think that he did a particularly good job of answering the questions," Greenberg said minutes after the interview with Birch ended. "I do not feel that most people listening to that discussion feel they got an adequate explanation of how they arrived at two games."

Roger Goodell maintains radio silence.