Uproar over the NFL's punishment for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is unfounded, NFL senior vice president of labor policy Adolpho Birch said Monday.
Rice was suspended two games for his offseason arrest and plea deal in a domestic violence incident involving his then-fiancee and now wife, Jenay Palmer. Rice was seen on surveliance video at a casino in Atlantic City dragging an unconscious Palmer out of an elevator in February.
The Ravens have supported Rice in the case, citing his sterling reputation before the incident, which create a social media firestorm in February and again last week when the NFL handed down a two-game suspension. The media and public reaction on Twitter and elsewhere was that the NFL sent the wrong message to Rice and other domestic violence offenders.
Rice was also fined a third game check and did not appeal the decision within the three-day allowable period to do so, leading to speculation that the NFL received Rice's consent to not object to the ban.
"Listen, I think if you are any player and you think that based on this decision that it's OK to go out and commit that kind of conduct, I think that is something that I would suggest to you that no player is going to go out and do that," Birch said Monday, appearing on ESPN Radio. "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 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 is a question about 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."
Because Rice entered a diversion program, he avoided legal repercussions.
"The discipline that was taken by the NFL is the only discipline that occurred, with respect to Mr. Rice, in this case," Birch said. "I think that, were he not an NFL player, I don't know that he would be able to receive any punishment from any other source.
"On balance, we reviewed all the materials, listened to the persons we listened to, took the input of the Players Association. When we looked on balance at all of that, we believe that discipline we issued is appropriate. It is multiple games and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think that's fair to say that doesn't reflect that you condone the behavior. I think we can put that to rest."