NFL closes gap on weak domestic violence policy

In the wake of harsh criticism following the announced two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice, Commissioner Roger Goodell implemented a more severe set of punishments for athletes who commit domestic abuse.

In a letter sent to team owner’s on Thursday, Goodell states that first time offenders will be subject to a minimum six-game suspension without pay, while a second offense may result in a lifetime ban from the NFL.

After Rice was captured on video beating and dragging his then fiancee out of an elevator in Atlantic City in February, Goodell announced a meager two-game suspension for the Ravens running back.

His decision was met with outrage from fans, women’s rights groups and even members of Congress who wrote the commissioner asking him to reconsider a harsher penalty.

Goodell has not changed his ruling in the Rice case, though he was candid in taking full responsibility for the botched outcome of his ruling:

“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.”

Since his announcement, Goodell has met with experts on the subject of domestic abuse, as well as team owners and members of the NFLPA, in order to revise the Personal Conduct Policy as it pertains to domestic violence.

After deliberation, Goodell saw the error of his judgement:

” I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”

Goodell’s letter does not clarify whether a player will have to be found guilty in court of law to be subject to the new penalties, but rather it states that the NFL will implement new elements of evaluation and enhanced discipline while investigating the matter.

Likewise, a first time offender may receive a more strict penalty than the outlined six-game ban for having a history of incidents prior to joining the NFL. These include 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 player convicted of a second domestic abuse offense will receive a lifetime ban. However, the player may petition the ban following the period of one year, though the NFL is not required to overturn the sentencing.

Speaking directly to players of the NFL and other personnel through his letter, Goodell delivered the following message regarding his new policy:

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances. 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.”

In order to take a proactive approach to preventing domestic abuse, the NFL will also provide mandatory services and educational outlets to both new and veteran players in the league.

These include enhanced training and symposiums for rookies, updated programs for veterans, newly available resources to spouses of NFL players through the NFL Lifeline and NFL Total Wellness programs and an expansion of educational programs in both the high school and college levels regarding domestic abuse.


Follow @SFBay and @ShawnWhelchel on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the San Francisco 49ers.

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