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Keidel: Josh Brown Case Puts NFL's Arbitrary Discipline On Full Display

By Jason Keidel
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The NFL is much like an astonishingly beautiful but alarmingly dumb blonde. No matter how silly her assertions, no matter how ignorant she sounds on a given matter or given month, men will always stumble over each other while gawking at her.

Likewise, no matter how hard it tries to ruin the pro football experience, the NFL can't surrender Sundays, or its perch as our preeminent sport.

The one-game domestic violence suspension for Giants kicker Josh Brown is further proof of this.

The NFL is great at promoting its players, but horrifically inept at caring for them. We could start with its glacial pace at addressing head trauma, an issue that still causes static between employee and employer. Heck, there are owners -- such as Jerry Jones -- who still doubt the science behind head trauma studies.

MORE: John Mara: Giants Knew Of Josh Brown Allegations Before Re-Signing Him

Then there's the chasm between the league, its players and society regarding recreational drugs. As our country becomes more and more aware and tolerant toward the impact of drugs and our right to use them in moderation, the NFL comes off as a temperance meeting. The calendar may say 2016, but the NFL is still stuck in 1916.

Josh Gordon, Martavis Bryant, Marcell Dareus are among public enemies of the highest order for using recreational drugs. Most NFL players under the drug-policy guillotine are guilty of smoking weed, a substance that is legal, either for medical or recreational use, in nearly half of our United States.

But beat your wife and you will see the softer side of jurisprudence.

You'd think after the Ray Rice incident, perhaps the ugliest application of justice in NFL history, the brass would be a bit more strident.

This isn't about Brown's legal rights or freedoms. He was arrested but not charged, and thus a free man off the gridiron. But the league holds its players to a higher standard. Or at least in theory.

Giants kicker Josh Brown
Giants kicker Josh Brown (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

According to the NFL, the police and Brown's wife offered little cooperation, and hence the league limited its suspension to one game. But Greg Hardy ultimately wasn't convicted, either. A bench trial found him guilty, but the charges were later dropped when his accuser failed to show up to testify in his appeal. That didn't stop the NFL from hurling the book at him, suspending the disgraced defensive lineman for 10 games before an arbitrator reduced it to four games.

The NFL presents a rock-hard front, with the sheriff, Roger Goodell, the law-and-order commissioner. Yet the application of its laws is so strange it feels arbitrary.

They go after Tom Brady as though he torched the NFL offices, in broad daylight, and went straight to the cops with a flaming match in hand. Brady reportedly played with a little PSI. For that he gets four games, and a national novella that played out in every living room in America.

But Brown gets one game. Brown was arrested for fourth-degree domestic violence in May 2015, and reports say his wife alleges this was among at least 20 incidents. He was not convicted of a crime -- charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence. But according to the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, he need not be in a jail cell in order to be disciplined.

Goodell, the grand gridiron deity, lords over the league with a stone fist when you smoke a joint. Countless studies are showing the innocuous, pain-killing impact of marijuana, but the league keeps its archaic shackles on the players. The NFL has no problem with team doctors draining their pads with Percocet, Vicodin, and Oxycontin scripts. Players can pop them like M&Ms with impunity, no matter the risk of addiction and the havoc the pills wreak on your organs. Just don't wake and bake, because that's bad for you.

Why do we care? Because it speaks to the rampant hypocrisy of NFL rules, where justice is anything but blind. Ending violence against women has to be more than a bumper sticker, or the league will one day be rocked by a fiscal and karmic tax.

Makes you wonder why Big Blue keeps ties with a dubious dude like Brown. Surely they can find a kicker of similar skills, sans the rap sheet. They just signed Randy Bullock, the former Houston Texans and Jets kicker, though still haven't released Brown. Indeed, Giants co-owner John Mara said Wednesday he's aware of Brown's situation and is still content with giving him a two-year, $4 million contract after his arrest.

That's no small matter. The Mara family, like the Rooney family, are old-world patriarchs of the NFL, their teams the football equivalent of Original Six squads. Each time a revered member of the football community looks the other way, it forms a growing stain on the formerly teflon NFL shield.

We can have a wider debate about the league's overall power, but the time to be strong is not when Ricky Williams says he needs weed to heal from the weekly pounding of pro football. Williams was suspended for an entire season, far harsher than the discipline doled out to Brown and Hardy.

Former Broncos running back Montee Ball was sentenced earlier this month to 60 days in jail after pleading guilty to two separate incidents -- one in which he allegedly threw his girlfriend through a table and another in which he was accused of choking an ex. Jaguars linebacker Dan Skuta was recently arrested for allegedly pushing a woman in the face for refusing to give him her phone number. No matter the popularity of the player, each incident adds to a troubling archive of unacceptable behavior.

The NFL was way late to the domestic violence party. When they botched the Rice punishment, they launched a PR campaign, assuring the media and the masses that this would not happen again, that violence against women was its top disciplinary priority.

Then what gives?

The league-wide, head-scratching rulings don't stop with marijuana or the wider palate of recreational drugs. Though it's alarming enough to see Gordon and Bryant serve season-long suspensions, at least, in their cases, they clearly did break the letter of the law, no matter how specious those laws are.

But in the ultimate paradox, consider the recent HGH scandal, which is anything but.

Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, James Harrison and Mike Neal were named in an Al Jazeera report accusing them of receiving shipments of HGH.

The accuser who was secretly filmed in the report recanted the entire story. But that didn't stop the NFL from hounding the NFL foursome. The league threatened each with an indefinite suspension if they refused to meet with Goodell and explain themselves.

What's to explain?

And how perilous is the precedent set by such meetings? This is like a judge telling a jury to ignore a statement just made by the prosecution, yet the jury uses the statement to convict the accused.

What's next? A lifetime ban for Viagra? Makes sense for a brand increasingly branded the "No Fun League."

But there's nothing fun or funny about violence against women, or the NFL's apathetic approach to it. If the league wants to be taken seriously as the crusaders against domestic violence, it needs to open its books and close the book on players who perpetrate it.

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel

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