Derrick Mason played 15 seasons in the NFL, including three with Ray Rice, who has been suspended for two games after facing third-degree assault charges by his then-fiancee, now-wife Janay Palmer.
So, first things first: What kind of guy is Rice?
“He’s a good guy,” Mason said on The Morning Show. “Team player, nice guy, family guy – I can’t say anything but good things about him. The guy never did anything that would have made me question his character while I was there with him in Baltimore. I’m pretty sure (that) sentiment is felt not just by me, but by Coach (John) Harbaugh and (the) other guys that either played with Ray or are playing with him now – that he’s all-around just a nice guy, a fun guy to be around.”
But did the NFL – as many people are saying – miss the boat by suspending Rice for only two games? Mason, who was attacked on Twitter for simply saying that Rice is a good person, believes the answer is yes.
“First and foremost, I didn’t defend Ray,” Mason said. “I think when it all came out, I said, Listen, I wouldn’t care if he was my brother, my father, whoever the case may be. I’m not condoning hitting a woman on any level. If you’re my brother, I’m going to say it’s wrong. You call a spade a spade. Just because you know the person, break bread with the person (and) have a very good relationship with the person doesn’t mean that you condone everything that they do. So, with that being said, yeah, I did take some flak yesterday, but it was unwarranted, I think, when you read the tweets. Never once did I take up for Ray. I said yes, Ray is a good guy, but good guys sometimes make bad decisions – and his decision to (do) whatever transpired in that elevator was a bad decision.”
“As far as Roger Goodell,” Mason continued, “I think he did miss – not just this one, but I think there’s been other situations where (he’s had) a chance to really (make a statement), really lay down the hammer in certain situations, and (he) just (hasn’t). And now everyone’s looking around – especially women – they’re looking around and asking, Does the NFL condone violence? We know they don’t, but when you level this type of punishment – a two-game punishment – it’s almost saying that, ‘Hey, that’s their problem. That’s their family. They dealt with it. The police didn’t prosecute, so we’re not going to level a harsh punishment against him. Yeah, we’re going to suspend you, but that’s really not our business because it didn’t happen on the field.’”
“I think that’s wrong. I know Roger. He pretty much cares what happens in situations like this, but when you discipline a guy so lightly in the situation, it makes other people wonder (whether) you really value a woman when it comes to being abused.”
But what happens now? The NFL probably won’t lengthen Rice’s suspension due to public outcry, but might they lengthen suspensions for similar transgressions in the future?
“I think the penalties have to be harsh,” Mason said. “If you’re going to fine a guy or suspend him (six games) for smoking marijuana, I think the punishment (for domestic violence) should be (a) minimum six games.”
But what if the NFLPA doesn’t share that stance?
“They’re going to have to,” Mason said. “If the PA fights against it, what does that say about the PA? If this is brought up and someone says (they can’t increase the suspension), then what are you promoting? I know you’re comparing apples to oranges, but why isn’t the punishment harsher when it comes to putting your hands on a female? I don’t understand that.”