Gov. Paul LePage, outraged that National Football League player Ray Rice received only a two-game suspension for a domestic violence arrest, pledged to boycott the league and called on its commissioner to take the issue seriously.
In a scathing letter sent to Roger Goodell on Tuesday, the outspoken Republican governor said the punishment given to the Baltimore Ravens running back sends the message that it’s OK “for professional athletes to beat women, just for the sake of ratings.”
“Taking thugs and wife-beaters off the field may be bad for business, but you are playing games with people’s lives,” said LePage, who was beaten by his father when he was young and has made domestic abuse prevention and awareness a priority of his administration.
Rice was arrested after a Feb. 15 altercation in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in which he struck then-fiancee Janay Palmer, who is now his wife. He has publicly apologized and has been accepted into a court diversion program, which may lead to the charges being expunged.
Goodell has said that the league has to be consistent with other cases when doling out punishment. He also noted that Rice didn’t have any off-field problems before and has taken responsibility for his actions.
In a radio interview last week, LePage said he would boycott the league, whose 2014 season kicks off Sept. 4, but he didn’t specify what that would involve. His administration didn’t immediately respond to questions about his plans to boycott.
LePage argued that Rice should have received a three-year suspension.
“As a matter of fact, the team should have taken him out in the back shed and taken care of him,” he said.
LePage told Goodell that if the league allows players to get away with domestic violence, it will send the message to young men that such behavior is acceptable, which “tarnishes all players and gives the league a bad name.”
He urged Goodell to take a strong stand against domestic violence by donating to an organization that provides services to victims or works to end the crime.
“You have the power to send a very strong message to a national audience that his behavior will not be tolerated,” he said.