By Ken Reed

The New England Patriots’ man-child of a tight end, Rob Gronkowski, delivered one of the cheapest of cheap shots this past Sunday in a game against the Buffalo Bills.

His penalty? A one-game suspension. What a joke!

With New England leading 23-3 late in the fourth quarter, Bills rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White intercepted a pass intended for Gronkowski. The play ends with White lying out of bounds, face down. But Gronkowski’s not done. He launches his body as a human spear and plows into the defenseless, and unsuspecting, White. To make matters worse, Gronk delivers a forearm shiver to the back of White’s head.

It was a weak and cowardice move deserving of a multiple-game suspension. Instead the league, in the midst of a crisis regarding brain injuries, decides to sit him for a single game.

Here’s Jenkins at her analytical best:

“Deflategate, according to Goodell, was about conspiring to subvert the rules. But what NFL rules could matter more than those governing violence after the whistle? If Gronkowski’s hit is no big deal, if it’s only worth one game, then which rules do matter? Seantrel Henderson got 10 games for using medical marijuana. You can hit a man in the head or the back when he’s down in this league, but try to kill the pain with a little cannabis and it can cost you a season.”

The NFL’s disciplinary program is simply absurd.

What Gronkowski did on Sunday goes beyond a simple emotion-driven penalty in a game. As Jenkins points out, Gronkowski’s act was:

“calculated, ego-driven retaliation against an opponent who couldn’t have been more defenseless or still. Worst of all, it was a shot to the head, when Gronkowski knows full well that concussions can lead to long-term neurological problems, even fatal disease.”

In legal terms, this situation represents a classic tort, or wrongful injury. Gronkowski’s act — committed well after the whistle and the play had ended — could have seriously injured an innocent victim who was out of bounds.

One game? Please.

When it comes to exercising his broad disciplinary powers, it’s increasingly clear that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is incompetent.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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