NFL’s new policy tackles domestic violence


Courtesy of Associated Press

Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice and his wife Janay spoke at a press conference in May regarding their altercation.

By Assistant Sports & Health Editor

 The NFL is cracking down on domestic violence after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell introduced a new initiative under the league’s personal conduct policy that imposes harsher punishments for players who are found guilty of acts of domestic violence. 

In a letter sent to all 32 NFL team owners on Aug. 28, Goodell said these steps are based on a clear, simple principle. 

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong,” Goodell said in the letter. “They are illegal. They have no place in the NFL and are unacceptable in any way, under any circumstances.”

The new policy calls for a six-game suspension without pay for a first offense and a lifetime ban from the NFL for the second offense. The suspension for first offenders can be increased under certain circumstances, according to the letter. An offense committed prior to an individual’s entrance into the NFL is one such circumstance, but no explanation has been given as to why that is. Other circumstances can include violence involving a weapon, choking or repeated striking, as well as any act of violence committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child. 

Goodell said that a second offender may petition for reinstatement after one year. However, there will be no guarantee that the petition will be granted. These disciplinary standards will apply to all NFL personnel.

After giving Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice a two-game suspension on July 31 for assaulting his then-fiancee in February, Goodell came under fire for what many critics perceived to be an insufficient punishment. In a surveillance video leaked by TMZ, Rice can be seen dragging his unconscious fiancee off of an elevator after the altercation.

The main criticism Goodell has faced from media and domestic violence organizations is the comparison of the one-year suspension he handed down to Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon after he tested positive for marijuana use, as opposed to the two-game suspension Rice received. Goodell  openly acknowledged his mistake in the letter.

“Despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals,” Goodell said. “My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families.”

Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said she supports the NFL’s new policy and that people need to understand what the NFL’S  new initiative is truly about.

“It’s not about punishing people,” Smith said. “It’s about getting their attention and helping them understand this is not appropriate behavior under any circumstances.”

However, Smith said she is still unsure how effective this new policy will be, as Goodell is already facing his first test from a player since the policy was enacted. 

“I read something about a [San Francisco] 49ers player this weekend that has now been charged with domestic violence after this Ray Rice episode,” Smith said.

49ers defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested on felony domestic violence charges Aug. 31, according to an ESPN press release. Since January 2013, eight players have been arrested for domestic violence, according to USA Today’s NFL arrest records database. McDonald’s arrest brings the new total up to nine. 

Despite McDonald’s arrest, Kathleen Doherty, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, said she hopes this policy will change things for the better.

“I’d like to think with these kind of sanctions in place, [domestic violence] will decrease in the NFL,” Doherty said.

Although Goodell has received positive feedback for his new policy, some fans have taken to social media to question whether it is Goodell’s or the NFL’s job to police any incidents that can occur off the football field.

David D. Martin, a senior deputy prosecuting attorney in the domestic violence unit of Seattle’s King County, said it is common practice for employers to punish employees for acts of domestic violence committed outside of the workplace.

“Most major institutions have domestic violence workplace policies,” Martin said. “The NFL has taken stands on issues of social importance, and I really can’t think of an issue that is more a part of the NFL than domestic and sexual violence.”

Martin said violence against women has been an ongoing issue not only in the NFL, but among men outside the league as well.

“It has unfortunately been a sad part of the history of men in the U.S. for many years,” Martin said. 

 It is a history Goodell said he is determined to change.

“I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values,” Goodell said. “I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”