Severe penalties for domestic violence
NEW YORK -- The NFL is immediately implementing a sweeping domestic
violence initiative that calls for a six-game suspension for a first
offense and a lifetime ban from the league for a second offense.
The measures, announced in a letter from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to all team owners, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, apply to all NFL personnel.
A six-game suspension would be without pay and the length of the
penalty could increase in these cases: an employee was involved in a
prior incident before joining the NFL; violence involving a weapon;
choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a
pregnant woman; or in the presence of a child. A second-time offender
may petition for reinstatement after one year but there is no assurance
the petition would be granted, the letter said.
The measures come partly in response to intense criticism Goodell
received for his handling of discipline for Baltimore Ravens running
back Ray Rice, who received a two-game suspension in July for assaulting
his then-fiancee in February. Widely viewed as soft punishment, Goodell
left many with the impression that the NFL did not understand domestic
violence or take it seriously as a crime.
Goodell acknowledged as much in the letter.
"At times, however, and despite our best efforts, we fall short of
our goals," Goodell wrote. "We clearly did so in response to a recent
incident of domestic violence. ... 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.
I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our
actions in the future properly reflect our values.
"I didn't get it right."
To be counted as an "offense," a player would not necessarily have to
be convicted in a court of law, but each incident will be judged on its
"Our personal conduct policy has long made clear that domestic
violence and sexual assault are unacceptable. We clearly must do a
better job of addressing these incidents in the NFL. And we will," the
AP Photo/Stephan Savoia
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged the need to implement severe punishment for personnel guilty of domestic abuse.
The Ravens had no immediate comment on the new policy after it was announced Thursday.
The league also announced a number of outreach measures. It will bulk
up the domestic violence portion of the rookie symposium, identify
at-risk personnel and offer preventative counseling, and also offer
families a phone number as an emergency resource.
The NFL will also take that message on the road.
"We will expand the educational components in our college, high
school and youth football programs that address domestic violence and
sexual assault," Goodell wrote to owners.
The NFL instructs owners to distribute a memo to all personnel that
details these new expectations and begins: "Domestic violence and sexual
assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have
no place in the NFL under any circumstances."
In February, Rice was arrested on a charge of aggravated assault
after knocking out his fiancee in an elevator in Atlantic City, New
Jersey. Surveillance video showed Rice dragging Janay Palmer, who
appeared unconscious, out of the elevator. Unreleased video showed Rice
striking Palmer in the elevator.
In July, Goodell announced that Rice would be suspended for the first
two games of the regular season. There was deep and sustained criticism
from fans and groups who work with victims of domestic violence in
response. The number of games was less than the suspensions given for
most other infractions, such as substance abuse, steroid use or DUI
offenses. The penalty for those items is determined by the collective
bargaining agreement hammered out with the players' union in 2011.
Domestic violence infractions, however, fall under the personal
conduct policy, which meant that Goodell alone was able to determine the
severity of any fine or suspension. The fact that the Ravens held a
press conference with Rice in May and had Janay sitting next to him on
the dais also seemed to imply she shared responsibility -- whether or
not that was the intention.
The fact that Goodell reportedly allowed Rice's wife into the hearing
to plead for leniency in front of her husband's employers struck many
"Having done this work for many years, often a victim will say she
doesn't want the abuser punished," said Judy Kluger, a former New York
City judge and current executive director of Sanctuary for Families,
after the decision was announced. "That shouldn't deter what an
independent organization decides to do."
Edited by Random Thoughts - Aug 28 2014 at 3:13pm