Integrity? What Integrity?

One of the stories that our media likes to cover instead of covering news that really affects the human race reared its head again this last weekend. Yes, the incident known as Deflategate was back in the news, to the unspoken sighs of relief from media outlets all over the country who were suddenly freed of maybe having to run a story about something that mattered.

Yesterday, the penalties for those involved were announced by the NFL. They include Tom Brady getting a four game suspension, two team employees being suspended indefinitely and the team being fined a million dollars as well as losing draft picks.

There was the usual blathering from league spokesmen about how the people involved “compromised the integrity of the league and the game.” We would like to ask the league what integrity they’re talking about.

Ray Rice 2012. "Ray Rice 2012" by 1ravenscowboysnflfan - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Ray Rice 2012. “Ray Rice 2012” by 1ravenscowboysnflfan – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Is it the integrity shown by the original penalty handed down in the Ray Rice case, where Ray received a two game suspension after knocking his wife out and dragging her out of a hotel elevator? Yes, the NFL afterwards said that they got it wrong and changed their personal conduct policy in regards to domestic assault, but even with the new regulations, the first time’s only a six week ban. Does this mean that an underinflated football is 2/3 as important as a battered woman?

Jameis Wilson Photo by David July; cropped by Beyond My Ken (UTC) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Jameis Wilson Photo by David July; cropped by Beyond My Ken (UTC) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Is it the integrity shown by the team owners in making Jameis Winston the first pick in the draft? Jameis Winston was accused of rape in December 2012. A New York Times article from last year details the almost non-existent investigation by both Florida State officials and the Tallahassee Police Department into the allegations. Evidently, this is no impediment for the league or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as Winston signed a four year, $25 million contract.

Underinflated balls are minor compared to these issues. We pay these people millions of dollars to play a game for our entertainment. Our children look up to them as role models. Isn’t it about time that they’re held fully accountable for their actions?

Yet, it’s the balls that are undermining the integrity of the league. And, while the argument could be made that Brady’s punishment is severe when you compare his punishment to the new guidelines for domestic assault, it also points to the fact that the punishment for assault is still too low.

Until the NFL adopts a zero-tolerance policy for domestic abuse and makes a conviction on such charges an automatic ban for life, they have no claim to integrity. Until the league and owners stop signing people with a track record of violence against women, they have no claim to integrity. To say or believe otherwise is insulting to women everywhere.

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