In light of the situation involving Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and subsequent outrage over his two-game suspension, the NFL has announced a much stronger policy for domestic violence and sexual assault.
According to Jane McManus of ESPNNewYork.com, citing a letter sent to all 32 NFL owners, offenders will receive a six-game suspension for the first offense and lifetime banishment for the second offense:
The NFL announced sweeping new measures on domestic violence in a letter to owners today; Six games for 1st offense, lifetime ban for 2nd.— Jane McManus (@janesports) August 28, 2014
ESPN's Adam Schefter highlighted a specific detail:
Key phrase in new domestic violence policy sent to NFL owners: "These disciplinary consequences apply to all NFL personnel." ALL personnel.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 28, 2014
Tom Pelissero of USA Today clarified that the second offense is not a hard banishment but an indefinite one that includes a minimum suspension of one year:
In reality, it's an indefinite ban with a minimum of one year for a second offense on domestic violence or sexual assault.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 28, 2014
Schefter posted the entire letter NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent around the league on his Facebook page. It's very detailed and talks about issues of respect, accountability and holding a high standard for the league:
Since becoming Commissioner, my focus has been on ensuring that the NFL is held in the highest regard by our fans, players, business partners, and public authorities. My commitment has always been to do what is right and to protect the integrity of the game, both now and long into the future. ...
... At times, however, and despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals. We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. 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. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.
Goodell also admitted that the "public response reinforced my belief that the NFL is held to a higher standard" and that the league wants to have a positive impact and display core values in more ways than just on the football field:
Much of the criticism stemmed from a fundamental recognition that the NFL is a leader, that we do stand for important values, and that we can project those values in ways that have a positive impact beyond professional football. We embrace this role and the responsibility that comes with it. We will listen openly, engage our critics constructively, and seek continuous improvement in everything we do. We will use this opportunity to create a positive outcome by promoting policies of respect for women both within and outside of the workplace. We will work with nationally recognized experts to ensure that the NFL has a model policy on domestic violence and sexual assault.
The NFLPA also issued a statement on its website about the announcement:
We were informed today of the NFL’s decision to increase penalties on domestic violence offenders under the Personal Conduct Policy for all NFL employees. As we do in all disciplinary matters, if we believe that players’ due process rights are infringed upon during the course of discipline, we will assert and defend our members’ rights.
Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated weighed in on any potential challenges to the policy:
NFL's new domestic violence policy could be challenged via antitrust law: it impacts players' employment and wasn't collectively bargained.— Michael McCann (@McCannSportsLaw) August 28, 2014
After the league announced Rice's suspension, Goodell and the NFL were taken to task by fans and media members. Bleacher Report's AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst had this to say about the soft punishment:
I'm furious and sad. And sad and furious. It's cool I have this platform, but @nflcommish you had the power and failed miserably.— Andrea Hangst (@FBALL_Andrea) July 24, 2014
Goodell has been looking to adopt a domestic violence policy in light of the response to his suspension for Rice. Mark Maske of The Washington Post reported on Aug. 13 that one idea being discussed was a season-long ban:
The prospective new policy, if it is implemented, could establish guidelines for a suspension of four to six games without pay for a first offense and potentially a season-long suspension for a second incident, according to those with knowledge of the matter. They spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic and because no final decision has been made by the league on implementing the policy.
Based on the new policy that is being implemented, Goodell and the league decided to take things even further than just a season-long suspension for both domestic violence and sexual assault.
This is Goodell's attempt to make good for a previous situation that, by his own admission, was botched. He had an opportunity to send a stern message to everyone that the NFL takes domestic violence and sexual assault seriously.
Andrew Brandt of ESPN confirmed that the new policy would not apply to Rice's own incident:
As expected, was told that new domestic violence will not be applied retroactively to Ray Rice. League exec: "That's done."— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) August 28, 2014
Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer also reported on Panthers star Greg Hardy and how his domestic violence case may be impacted under the news rules:
NFL spokesman when asked about Greg Hardy situation: "Each case will be addressed individually on its merits." http://t.co/ANLE7ibkpm— Joe Person (@josephperson) August 28, 2014
McManus later passed along more on how the policy would work:
A league source told ESPN's Andrew Brandt that discipline would be triggered by adjudication of a player's case, such as a conviction or plea agreement. The policy is not retroactive, meaning all personnel have a clean slate, a league source told ESPN's Mark Dominik. If a player commits a crime while in college or high school and then has a first offense while in the NFL, the player could be subject to a suspension harsher than six games.
Rice's punishment was the same number of games as Washington safety Brandon Meriweather recently received for multiple helmet-to-helmet hits. It's not exactly severe discipline for a serious situation.
While this amendment to the league's policy doesn't change what happened before, it is a positive sign that Goodell realized the error of his ways, admitted it and has taken the steps to make sure a system is in place that more accurately reflects the severity of domestic violence and sexual assault.
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