NFL Should Prioritize Domestic Violence, Not Deflategate, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey Points Out

Joining the wave of criticism following the NFL’s decision to suspend Tom Brady, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey questioned the NFL’s priorities when it came to Deflategate vs. domestic violence incidents. Following a speech she gave Tuesday to Boston’s business community, Healey said she wished the NFL devoted “a tenth” of the time it spent on Deflategate to issues of domestic violence and sexual assault within the league.

"I'm just struck by the fact that somebody like Ray Rice gets a two-game suspension and Tom Brady, over deflated balls, is facing a four-game suspension. It doesn't add up for me,” Healey said, according to the Boston Herald.

Many have called foul over the fact that New England Patriots quarterback Brady’s four-game suspension for his alleged role in deflating game balls is twice as long as what Baltimore Ravens' player Ray Rice first received last July for, at the time, allegedly assaulting his then-fiancee in a Vegas elevator. The NFL eventually decided to suspend Rice indefinitely after new video evidence proved he did in fact knock his then-fiancee unconscious.

But as Charlotte Alter claimed in an opinion article published in TIME, the biggest reveal in the NFL's handling of Deflategate vs. players accused of domestic violence might be how little value the league seems to put on evidence from outside sources, particularly women, in incidents involving the player’s personal lives.

In the case of domestic violence, eyewitnesses testimonies or police reports are sometimes not enough to take a player off the field, even temporarily. Alter points out a long list of NFL players accused of domestic violence and sexual assault who are still on the field, or were only suspended after public outcry or due to unrelated incidents. She wrote:

So when it’s a question of footballs, a series of phone records that indicate Brady was probably "generally" aware is enough to merit a tough punishment. But when it’s a woman accusing a football player of abuse, police reports and rape kits are not.
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In fact, the alleged leniency extends even to players who aren't even on the team yet. The Seattle Times reported last week that the Seattle Seahawks failed to conduct a thorough investigation of draft pick Frank Clark, who was arrested on charges of domestic violence last November. The Seahawks did not speak to eyewitnesses or, actually, anyone other than Clark about the night Clark allegedly beat his then-girlfriend, which led to his being kicked off of his college team. After its investigation, the Seahawks organization said it believed Clark did not strike his girlfriend, despite what the police report and witnesses alleged. Clark's lawyer, Kenneth Bailey, issued a statement saying, "I want to assure you that based upon many conversations with Frank Clark, I am comfortable re-affirming his prior statements that he did not strike his then-girlfriend."

Given Healey's new role as head of law enforcement in Massachusetts, which she took over in January, her stance on how the NFL prioritizes the type of player misconduct it chooses to investigate and the type of evidence it warrants as dismissal-worthy won’t fall on deaf ears, at least in her jurisdiction. But whether the NFL will choose to listen in future cases is unknown.

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