Politics & Policy

Why Didn’t Ray Rice Get the Richie Incognito Treatment Right Away?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell offers sympathy to an assaulter but pariah status for a bully.

Richie Incognito, an All-Pro offensive lineman, was branded a thug, faced countless hours of interrogation by league officials and their lawyers, and now can’t get a job in the NFL because he was found guilty of “bullying” a fellow lineman of equal size and strength.

Ray Rice, an All-Pro running back, was suspended for a mere two games, faced no similar league inquisition, and was heralded by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as a decent guy who made a simple “mistake” when he was caught on video dragging his unconscious fiancée out of the elevator after what appeared to be a physical altercation.

Welcome to political correctness, Goodell-style.

By now people who follow football (and many people who don’t) know that Rice, a Baltimore Ravens star, has been fired by his team and suspended indefinitely from the league by Goodell.

But Goodell’s “bold” move came only after a second video surfaced showing what had obviously transpired before the dragging incident — Rice sending a cold clock to his wife’s jaw – a punch, I might add, that would have put most men, not just a woman half his weight, down for the count. (A law-enforcement official also told AP today that the NFL had received the more violent video, though the NFL denies that it saw the video and claims to have sought out such information.)

The obvious question being asked of Goodell: Why did it take the publication of the second video for him to do what needed to be done and kick this thug out of the game? He’s still trying to come up with a coherent answer.

Another obvious question: Why did Goodell initially throw his support behind Rice after an obvious physical altercation with a woman but throw the book at Incognito for name-calling a 300-pound fellow lineman?

I don’t expect Goddell to answer that question (an NFL spokesman didn’t return a telephone call or e-mail for comment). Nor do I expect the gentle souls in the media to raise it either. That’s because to do so would be to own up to the obvious fact that the scourge of “bullying” (which used to be called “name calling”), in our ever more politically correct world, has been deemed a worse offense than even physically abusing a woman.

Some words are more dangerous than some violent actions, according to the PC police.

You can blame the intellectual Left for this bizarre order. One of the earliest steps was inculcating the college experience with speech codes, making it a disciplinary offense to have certain political opinions. (Of course, this was conveniently accompanied by equating conservatism and support for low taxes, less government, and free markets with racism.)

The result is we have schools that ban certain books and place warning labels on others. Newspapers refused to cover certain stories because they might offend certain people. We have a military that, for fear of coming across as xenophobic, wouldn’t crack down on a radicalized Islamic officer before he killed and wounded 30 people. We have a president who time after time shies away from calling terrorists terrorists.

And now we have a popular sport that seems to think bullying and name calling might be worse than assault and battery.

None of this is to excuse Richie Incognito’s conduct, which led to an unofficial banishment from football that continues to this day. But consider his actions and the response by the NFL. When e-mails and voicemails surfaced indicating that Incognito had, among other alleged improprieties, forced his Miami Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin to attend team meetings at strip clubs, and used the n-word in one conversation with Martin (Incognito is white and Martin black), Goodell immediately launched a league investigation.

He even hired one of the country’s toughest attorneys, superlitigator Ted Wells, to conduct a probe into Incognito’s actions. The so-called Wells report called Incognito the ring leader of a gang of abusers who forced Jonathan Martin to flee the Dolphins mid-season last year through “a pattern of harassment.”

In condemning the behavior of Incognito (and to a lesser extent that of two other players), the report noted the following:

The NFL is not an ordinary workplace. . . . Professional football is a rough, contact sport played by men of exceptional size, speed, strength and athleticism. But even the largest, strongest and fleetest person may be driven to despair by bullying, taunting and constant insults.

Incognito through a spokesman claimed that his actions and even the inexcusable racial language were more complicated than what the press had reported, saying he and Martin were friends. Martin through a spokeswoman said he played along with some of Incognito’s antics (including strip-club visits) to fit in with his teammates since Martin was a rookie and Incognito a seasoned veteran.

Goodell’s response: a massive report that made Incognito an untouchable in the NFL to this day for “bullying, taunting and constant insults.”

And his response to Ray Rice’s battery: Even after the second video has emerged, Goodell is leaving the door open for Rice’s eventual return to the league.

Full disclosure: I’m an acquaintance of Goodell and have had a friendly relationship with him. I don’t have a problem with his massive salary — the NFL is a business, and Roger Goodell by most accounts is a very good businessman, which is why the owners keep him around.

But for the life of me, I can’t understand how words, even the nasty stuff uttered by Richie Incognito, are worse than assault and battery. Roger, I’m waiting for your (politically correct) answer.

— Charles Gasparino is a senior correspondent for Fox News and the Fox Business Network.

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