The NFL’s stance on illegal drugs is clear. If you’re caught possessing or using them, you’ve automatically earned yourself a suspension.

Consider Arizona Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington’s case. He lost his entire 2014 salary of $2.9 million plus a few other things that will amount to at least hundreds of thousands of dollars after testing positive for marijuana. The Cardinals also suspended Washington for four games last year over his pot use.

Yes, it may seem like an extreme measure to take against a young man looking for a buzz on his day off. But rules are rules, and don’t say the League didn’t warn you.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Image courtesy of zennie62/Flickr

Washington just found out that another NFL policy isn’t so clear. He recently pleaded guilty and was convicted in April of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. The league still hasn’t punished him for shoving her and breaking her collarbone.

This is an unfortunate trend in professional football.

On February 15, security camera footage captured Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice dragging his unconscious then-fiancée-now-wife out of an Atlantic City casino elevator. While Rice and his fiancée were both booked for assault, the video makes it pretty clear who had the upper hand.

Rice punched her “like (he would hit) a guy,” said one eyewitness.

The league’s response? In late July, it dealt Rice a whopping two-game suspension. That seems a little lenient considering the way the NFL handled Daryl Washington’s drug incident, doesn’t it?

Not only that, but the league is helping paint the incident as your run-of-the-mill lovers’ quarrel. You know, the kind where your wife slaps you so you knock her out when you think no one’s looking. Hmm.

Here’s what the Ravens’ official twitter account had to say: “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”

Phew! Thanks for clearing that up. For a second, I thought one of professional sports’ elite athletes might be a violent domestic abuser. Now we can all feel better knowing that she was probably asking for it.

Or, just maybe, Mrs. Rice stands to lose just as much from a lengthy suspension as Ray does. I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s the family’s primary breadwinner.

Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is doing his part to downplay the event from the executive suite.

“I believe that you are sincere in your desire to learn from this matter and move forward toward a healthy relationship and successful career,” Goodell wrote Rice in an open letter.

Oh, good! Ray Rice’s repentant attitude has earned him a second chance. Because, you know, this was a learning experience.

On second thought, maybe the NFL’s message is clearer than I thought.

Despite growing support for legal pot, marijuana violations account for almost all of the league’s drug penalties. Those suspensions range anywhere from four games for a first-time offender to an entire season in Washington’s case.

Meanwhile, star football players may or may not get suspended for committing violent acts against women. As long as they’re learning stuff, the penalties could be minor.

Here’s the takeaway: Please, players, don’t smoke pot. It damages the NFL’s integrity.

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Joel Kendrick

Joel Kendrick is an OtherWords editorial assistant.

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