• AP Photo/Elise Amendola
  • Was Tom Brady appropriately punished, or is it all a lot of hot air?

Rick Morrissey makes a strong case in Monday’s Sun-Times that justice in the NFL is skewed, the league coming down harder on the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady for leaking air out of footballs than it has on “hulking players who have abused women.”

“It is not apples and oranges,” Morrissey argues. “It is apples and human beings, and the NFL has deemed that apples—’the integrity of the game’—are far more worthy of protection.”

I don’t know that I disagree. The point I want to make is that the violence—Ray Rice seen in a video punching out his fiancee in an elevator, Greg Hardy allegedly choking and tossing a former girlfriend—can be and sometimes is prosecuted as criminal conduct. Prosecutors allowed Rice into a pretrial intervention program; Hardy was convicted of a misdemeanor before winning on appeal when his accuser didn’t show up in court.

It’s hard to imagine an all-pro quarterback taking a perp walk because some game balls weighed in a little light. Local DAs have too much on their plates to worry about the integrity of the game; it’s on the NFL and on the NFL only to deal with it. As long as hulking players abuse women the NFL can coddle them or send them packing as public opinion dictates and be none the worse off for it. But if fans ever stop thinking the games are legit, the league as we know it is finished.

It probably suits the NFL’s purposes for its players to be seen as violent men playing a violent game. But rig the game and fans will find some other excuse to make bets and throw tailgate parties. Commissioner Roger Goodell is just doing his job.