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Punch line: The NFL blows it

The NFL suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games and fined him more than half a million dollars. His offense? He allegedly punched his fiancee (now wife) so hard he knocked her unconscious. And this is all he gets?

Rice pleaded no contest to aggravated assault and struck a deal with criminal prosecutors, which allowed him to avoid a trial. The NFL could have dropped the hammer on him to both impose harsh consequences and set an example for other players. It chose not to.

In the fall, the NFL will make its players wear pink uniforms for one game, supposedly to raise awareness of breast cancer, but really to gain more female fans. The league’s official messsage to women is: We care about your well-being. The unstated message is: unless you are dating a player.

On the field, there is a mandatory 15-yard penalty for striking with the fist. Off the field, the punishment is up to the commissioner. That the penalty for cold cocking a woman is less than the penalty for abusing alcohol says all a fan needs to know about the league’s priorities. Substance abuse can diminish a player’s value on the field. Punching a woman, well, that doesn’t hurt the player at all.

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