The NFL announces harsher penalties for domestic violence offenses

Michelle Mar | 9/3/2014, 11:05 a.m.

On August 28, 2014 NFL Commissioner Roger Goodwell announced harsher penalties for NFL players who violate the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence, or sexual assault. First time offenders will receive a six-game suspension and second time offenders will receive a lifetime ban. The NFL decision to increase sanctions for domestic violence offenses came as a response to the two-game suspension of Baltimore Raven Ray Rice. Last month Rice was indicted for aggravated assault after a video surfaced of Rice dragging his fiancé unconscious body out of an Atlantic City casino elevator.

Commissioner Goodwell made this announcement in a letter sent to team owners. In his letter Goodwell admitted to mishandling the Ray Rice case. 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. Wrote Goodwell, 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.

Goodwell provided a list of actions that would reinforce and enhance their policies against domestic violence. This included providing education and training for NFL players and personnel to help them better understand the risk factors and impacts of domestic violence. Confidential resources and support will also be available for NFL members and their family members whether they are victims or potential perpetrators of sexual assault or domestic violence.

Goodwell acknowledged the NFL responsibility to be a role model and to set the example on how to prevent and handle domestic violence cases in the future. 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, wrote Goodwell. This change in perspective reflects the NFL’s progress towards taking domestic violence more seriously. According to The NFL and Domestic Violence by Jeremy Bamidele, Goodwell was initially criticized for handing down a lenient penalty for Rice behavior. Now the NFL is sending a very different message loud and clear. Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong, wrote Goodwell. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances.