While at times it may seem that way, National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t really making it up as he goes. But, given a second chance, he seems to have a better handle on the gravity of some of the situations he’s called on to adjudicate.

Goodell can’t get a “do over” for Ray Rice, but, when he had time to give it a second thought, following an outcry of criticism, he thought better of the penalty for domestic violence. The harm that may have been done in the Rice case, a two game suspension over a video that showed him dragging his apparently unconscious fiance from an elevator, eventually led to a standardization of the rules regarding such incidents and much stiffer penalties. Perhaps Goodell was still thinking of Ray Rice when Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay yesterday pleaded guilty to a charge of driving while under the influence of painkillers. Once the legal system had had it’s way with Irsay, which included a fine, one year’s probation as a first offender, including a year of drug testing, and a one year suspension of his driver’s license, Goodell stepped up.

This time he stepped up big time and took it to the max, the max that he’s allowed in such situations. Goodell personally informed Irsay that’s he’s suspended from all team and league events and meetings for the first six games of the season and he’s being fined $500,000, admittedly a much stiffer penalty than that handed to Ray Rice, but, in all likelihood, further reparation for the Rice mistake.

In the wake of the Rice uproar Goodell announced new sanctions for domestic violence incidents, including a minimum six game suspension for a first offense, a penalty that can be even greater depending on the facts in the case, and a $500,000 fine. Second offenders will be suspended for an entire season and be required to petition for a return to the league.

In the case of Jim Irsay, the penalty invoked by Goodell takes his own powers to their extreme, but the door remains ajar for an even greater punishment, if all 31 other NFL owners agree the penalty should be stiffer, and agree on the extent of that penalty. The owners are likely to take the pulse of their players to determine their opinion of the penalty to Irsay before taking any further action, but this demonstration that owners are not immune to the rules of the league, and are subject to substantial penalties, shows that, given a second bite of the apple, Roger Goodell found the taste of the first bite to be quite bitter indeed.

With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.


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