Scandal is abundant in the National Football League. There are 1,696+ players in the NFL at any given time and it always seems that one of its marquee players is in the spotlight for some sort of wrongdoing. The NFL has done a fantastic job of branding and marketing the NFL Combine and Draft to keep the league being discussed year-round but the soap opera that it has become, makes football an even hotter topic of conversation.
In light of Tom Brady’s suspension for his involvement in DeflateGate (which will likely be overturned or shortened), we decided to look back at some of the most notable suspensions from the last five years.
2010 Ben Roethlisberger
NFL records will show that Big Ben was suspended in April 2010 for “violating the leagues personal conduct policy” but the legal record says that the prosecutor decided not to pursue criminal action. Ben was accused of sexually assaulting a girl in a Georgia bar bathroom. A year before this incident, another girl filed suit in Washoe County, NV, claiming that Roethlisberger raped her. In 2011, both sides of that case decided to drop the case. The terms of the signed stipulation agreement were never made public. Neither side admits to money changing hands but public opinion is (and that’s all that really matters) that’s what happened.
Ben was given six games but after appeal it was reduced to four. The league didn’t rely on the courts to make a decision. The shield didn’t need a conviction to discipline a player. Many argue they overstepped in suspending Roethlisberger without so much as a trial but the damage had already been done and they doled out a punishment anyway. This incident set the precident that the league wouldn’t need a judge and jury for their sentencing to happen.
2012 New Orleans Saints
BountyGate. The Saints were investigated for creating a system of “non-contract bonuses” or “bounties” for any player who injured opponents running back to 2009 when they won Super Bowl XLIV. Head coach Sean Peyton and linebacker Jonathan Vilma got full season suspensions for 2012. Anthony Hargrove was suspended for 8 games; Will Smith was given 4 games and Scott Fujita received a 3-game suspension. The NFL also punished coaches. The Saints GM Mickey Loomis was suspended for the first 8 games of the season. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended for 6 games and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely.
Many questioned whether it was fair for the league to come down so hard on Sean Peyton because many believed he would have nothing to do with the scandal. Roger Goodell’s reason for coming down on the head coach was “ignorance is not an excuse.”
2013 Richie Incognito
The Miami Dolphins lineman has been known as bully on the field since his college days at Nebraska but it turns out that he was accusing of being one off the field it as well. Defensive lineman have called Incognito dirty and he was voted the dirtiest player in the NFL in a poll by Sporting News. In one situation, Houston Texans defensive end Antonio Smith was so fed up with Incognito that he ripped his helmet off and swung it and was later suspended for his reaction.
Incognito’s teammate Jonathan Martin left the team and claimed harassment and bullying as the reasons. According to “the Highlandtown Kid” Jason La Canfora, Martin actually feared for his safety, and felt that leaving the team was his only option. This opened up a whole can of worms and Ted Wells was called in to investigate the situation. Full text message conversations and voicemails were released and showed how vulgar Incognito’s language was.
For his actions, Incognito was suspended indefinitely. The suspension was lifted 3 months later but Incognito spent the entire 2014 season out of the NFL. He was later signed by the Buffalo Bills in February 2015.
2014 Ray Rice
It’s one thing when there are accusations of an alleged incident but it’s a whole other situation when there’s video evidence of someone doing something heinous. The NFL suspended Rice for four games after they saw the police reports and the video of Rice dragging his unconscious girlfriend out of an elevator in Atlantic City. Just before his suspension was up and he was ready to return to play, TMZ released another video that shows exactly what happened inside the elevator and shocked the world. Rice knocking his girlfriend unconscious was all the NFL needed to see to suspend Rice indefinitely. Questions were raised whether the league did enough to get this video in the first place. Many viewed the lack of effort as the NFL attempting to sweep yet another case of domestic violence under the rug and just hope it went away.
Rice appealed his suspension and it was lifted two months later but no team has taken a chance on signing the once great Baltimore Ravens running back. The league has vowed to take a stricter stance on domestic violence related issues.
2014 Adrian Peterson
Peterson was indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child in mid-September 2014. Photos surfaced on TMZ.com of Peterson’s child with scratches and bruises on his back and legs. The Vikings initially deactivated Peterson for the next game against the Patriots. He was then cleared to play against New Orleans the following week under heavy criticism. Peterson made a statement, following a visit with a psychologist, that “I am not a perfect son. I am not a perfect husband. I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser.” The team decided to place Peterson on the NFL’s Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list and the league stated that he would be suspended indefinitely but was reinstated in February 2015.