Oct 18, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel warms up before the game against the Denver Broncos at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Browns would have violated NFL rules if they had suspended quarterback Johnny Manziel over the incident with his girlfriend, according to general manager Ray Farmer.
The NFL alone has the authority to discipline a player for any potential personal conduct policy violations, leaving the Browns with just one option – to make Manziel inactive on game day. The Browns chose not to do that while the league handles its investigation of the Oct. 12 incident between Manziel and his girlfried, Colleen Crowley.
Farmer’s comments came on Tuesday when he was a speaker at a luncheon fundraiser for the Cleveland area Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center, according to ESPN. In addition to releasing a short official statement following the incident, Farmer said he met privately with the second-year quarterback.
“From my own personal standpoint, and I think from the league’s standpoint, every issue that involves physical violence or potential physical violence to a woman is serious.” – Troy Vincent, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations
“Any time there’s question marks, we follow up,” Farmer said. “Like I said in my statement, I had my conversation with Johnny. I’m not going to make that public. That conversation is private, and should be. He knows where I am, and I know where he is.”
In addition to Farmer, the event featured Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, as its keynote speaker.
While Vincent did not go into detail about the current status of the league’s investigation into the incident, he did tell ESPN that, “From my own personal standpoint, and I think from the league’s standpoint, every issue that involves physical violence or potential physical violence to a woman is serious.”
Even though neither Manziel nor Crowley were charged in the incident, the NFL now takes even the hint of domestic violence seriously in the aftermath of the Ray Rice incident.
“It doesn’t matter (that no one was charged)” Vincent told ESPN. “That’s one of the things that we learned [from the Ray Rice situation]. We have our investigators that are experts in the area of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. We work with local authorities, but we’re not leaving it as we have done in the past, years past.
“We now do our own independent [investigation]. One of the things that we learned and was recommended that we do is we have in-house people who are experts in that particular field that will conduct the independent investigation.”
In addition to the league investigating the incident, there are no shortage of people ready to hang Manziel without a trial.
A petition at change.org calls for the NFL to suspend Manziel during the investigation (apparently the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” does not apply here). According to the petition:
"Just last season, the NFL announced it was taking a stronger stance on domestic violence and sexual assault, and planned to make it clear that violence had no place within the organization. The league’s personal conduct policy was revised to state explicitly that such incidents would be subject to enhanced discipline."
"According to this policy, Manziel should be suspended from games. Instead, the NFL is choosing to protect their player and send a message to football fans across the country that domestic violence is acceptable. Manziel has his very own offensive line protecting him from justice."
"Enough is enough. We want to see that the NFL’s newly enhanced commitment to ending domestic violence applies to all players."
Christine Brennan from USA Today is also calling for immediate justice, writing that:
"Little more than a year after the league lived through the domestic violence nightmare induced by Rice, Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson, how is it possible that Manziel is still on the active roster of an NFL team?"
"The league says it is investigating before coming to a conclusion about what happened, which is standard operating procedure under its new, 10-month-old personal conduct policy."
"Let’s hope the investigators get their answers quickly, as in before this Sunday’s game. This is a high-profile case that demands answers, and action."
It is a good sign that the NFL is taking a look at what transpired between Manziel and Crowley. Too many times in the past few years the league has messed up when it comes to its players and domestic abuse.
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But until league officials conclude their investigation and make a determination, suspending Manziel comes across as being a bit harsh. If the league determines that whatever happened that day doesn’t deserve punishment (a decision that will anger many, no doubt, who want their pound of flesh no matter what), there would be no way for the league or the Browns to give Manziel back the time he missed.
No matter what you think of Manziel, he deserves his day in league court. If justice is to be served, it will be served whether it is this week, next week or a few more weeks down the road.
The most important aspect is for the league to get this right, not just get it done quickly.