NFL issues strict new domestic violence policy in wake of Ray Rice scandal

Ray Rice

Finally, a bit of good news from the NFL on the Ray Rice controversy. The Baltimore Ravens’ running back was arrested on Feb. 15 after TMZ published a video of him dragging his unconscious fiancé (now wife) Janay Palmer out of an elevator. Rice was charged with felony assault, but those charges were dropped in favor of counseling. Rice’s livelihood was barely affected by the incident. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice from — get this — two whole games, which doesn’t even qualify as a slap on the wrist considering what he did.

The critical uproar caused Goodell to poorly justify his decision. Goodell tried to say the short suspension was “consistent” with other cases and, hey, it was only the first time that Rice nearly beat a woman to death. Even Rice seemed shocked by the leniency of NFL’s discipline. Rice called his own actions “totally inexcusable.”

Goodell finally decided to take some action and revise the NFL’s personal conduct policy. This action is retroactive and will not affect Rice, but it’s a step in the right direction. Now players will receive a six-game suspension for a first domestic violence offense. Is this enough? A second offense will result in a lifetime ban from the NFL. Goodell issued a comprehensive memo on the policy changes. The full version is here, and it’s really long. Some excerpts:

At times 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.

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. Earlier today, I sent NFL owners a letter that identified specific actions we will take to improve our response to domestic violence and sexual assault. Those actions include the following:

• All NFL Personnel will participate in new and enhanced educational programs on domestic violence and sexual assault. We will also increase our outreach to college and youth football programs.

• Families will receive detailed information about available services and resources, both through the club and independent of the club. These resources and services will be available to employees and their families on a confidential basis.

• Violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence and sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to enhanced discipline. A first offense will be subject to a suspension of six weeks without pay. Mitigating circumstances will be considered, and more severe discipline will be imposed if there are aggravating circumstances such as the presence or use of a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child. A second offense will result in banishment from the league; an offender may petition for reinstatement after one year but there is no assurance that the petition will be granted. These disciplinary consequences apply to all NFL personnel.

[From ESPN]

The policy also includes wellness, outreach, and treatment programs for those affected by domestic violence. Hopefully, this new policy will help at-risk players and their spouses to seek help before another elevator incident occurs. I hope the stricter guidelines don’t have a deterrent effect when it comes to reporting abuse or seeking help. Will this prompt battered women to fear ending their husbands’ professions? I wish that wasn’t a consideration here. All domestic violence should be reported regardless of the “fallout.”

Please tell me we won’t be hearing any more from Stephen A. Smith or Whoopi Goldberg on the issue of “provocation.”

Roger Goodell is shown here on 7/17 at the San Francisco 49ers stadium ribbon cutting.

Ray Rice

Photos courtesy of Getty, Fame/Flynet & WENN

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42 Responses to “NFL issues strict new domestic violence policy in wake of Ray Rice scandal”

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  1. doofus says:

    a year suspension for smoking pot, which is LEGAL in many parts of the country and two games for beating a woman unconscious.

    it’s about GD time they reviewed their discipline policies.

    • TheOriginalKitten says:

      + a bazillion.

      My love for the NFL has really waned over the past few years as I’ve become more aware of their attitude towards domestic violence, homosexuality, and the way the NLF organization and owners are complicit in treating their players like racehorses.

      It’s sad that it took the public’s outrage over the Ray Rice incident to get the NFL to finally reassess their policy towards domestic abuse, but better late than never I guess.

      The thing is, the NFL is widely considered the most well-regulated sports organizations in the U.S. At least I see hope with their willingness to change.

    • Rose says:

      Couldn’t agree more. I still think a six game suspension isn’t enough.

  2. ToodySezHey says:

    I heard about this while I was at work yesterday.

    Good on Roger Goodell for addressing it. I think the six game suspension is a bit light for a first offense (I think it should be 8 games I.e. half the season) but I love the lifetime ban for the second offense.

    The only thing missing is putting a policy in place for sexual assault charges. But overall, well done NFL.

    • tealily says:

      I agree completely with your entire comment.

    • Sonya says:

      When reading the wording I believe that this policy could/would be used to cover sexual assault as well. Also, I like that that there is still a case by case aspect. In other words, the BEST you are going to get for a first time is six games but if it includes any of the stated particulars OR if it is deemed especially gross or violent they can be punished more severely even for first offenses.

  3. Ag says:

    i live in suburban dc. i’m stuck between the scylla of the washington team which shan’t be named, and charybdis of the ravens, who suspected rice for 2 games for punching his now-wife out and dragging her out of the elevator. i’m seriously considering not watching any games this season, i’ve been more grossed out by the nfl lately than i usually am.

    glad they’re doing something in the right direction, though.

    • TheOriginalKitten says:

      Were you a big fan before the Rice incident?

      I know how you feel. I’m a Pats fan and we had Aaron Hernandez, who IMO takes the cake as the most evil athlete of all time. Well…there’s OJ Simpson I guess, but still.

      It sucks because I’m definitely planning on watching next Sunday–even having a little party for it but I do feel incredibly conflicted. This news makes me feel a bit better but….

      • Ag says:

        not a huge fan, but i liked the ravens, and rice went to my alma mater (rutgers) – they were a preferable alternative to the DC team. i’m more of a casual football fan, my husband is a born-and-raised DC team fan. and we’re both there with you – we feel very, very conflicted watching all the time. the TBIs, treating the players just as short-term money-makers and then disposing of them with no life-long health benefits, the sexism and homophobia that go on, etc etc. meh.

        hernandez IS the bottom of the barrel indeed.

      • TheOriginalKitten says:

        Ah I see. Yeah it really sucks. At least I’m not alone in my feelings..

      • megs283 says:

        Yes, but the Pats dropped Aaron Hernandez as soon as there was legal action and suspicion against him. I’d like to think that they didn’t know about his all-around sketchiness (to put it lightly) but that’s probably naive on my part.

        I wish the Steelers and other teams would follow suit, and drop the scumbags on their teams. If they wouldn’t want to leave their daughter alone with a player, why do they feel comfortable employing that person? (Rhetorical question…I know it’s $$)

        For all the crap that people say about the Patriots – I’m proud that Belichick doesn’t tolerate criminals.

  4. winosaurusres says:

    Good for them. I mean it’s too little too late, and it’s not enough. But at least it’s a step in the right direction.

  5. Reece says:

    Well 6 games is nearly half the season so…”mitigating circumstances” sounds iffy.
    Far better than the previous policy.

  6. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    It’s a step in the right direction. Long overdue. The only part I disagree with is the second chance. I think if it’s a serious assault, the perpetrator should be banned for life the first time. Because we all know that wasn’t really the first time.

    • Tapioca says:

      Yes. Yes we do. And the truly shocking part is the “now WIFE”!!

      It’s a tragedy that a person can have so little self-esteem and no family and friends that truly care about her.

      • lc says:

        Women who leave have a far greater chance of later being killed than women who stay. It is a truly horrible catch 22. I’m sure you saw two recent national news stories – one where the woman who left was chased down and murdered and the other where the estranged wife’s sister and her family, except for one child, were killed by the piece of garbage who was looking for her and thought they knew where she was.

  7. Leprechaun says:

    I’m glad that the NFA is taking this action and I hope they stick with it and not try and weasel out of it when the time comes. I just don’t see how a big guy who beat a woman senseless is only sentence to counseling plus a two game suspension. Huh?? This attitude is a good part of why women end up in horrendous abuse situation that can culminate in death. In fact, I can foresee lawsuits being filed against the NFA in the future if the NFA has proof of abuse and doesn’t act upon it, resulting in some woman’s grave injury or even death.

  8. QQ says:

    So by that token: is Ochocinco reapplying today?

    How many teams will be short of dudes by next year?

    Are WAGs solely dependent on their athlete husband going to be more or less likely to come forward?

    What about Joint press conferences where we make the wife apologize? Are those gonna still be a Thing or nah?

  9. Megan says:

    This is ridiculous… An Indianapolis Colts player got a four game suspension for using fertility drugs during the off season to get his wife pregnant

  10. FingerBinger says:

    Too bad they can’t extend these policies to the NCAA. There are college athletes that are just as violent and abusive as the guys in the NFL.

    • Jericho says:

      Exactly! I had watched part of the OTL on Derrik Washington. Not only his behavior, but Mizzou’s reaction made me sick to my stomach.

  11. Tulip says:

    Basically the guy was too valuable to have out of the game too long AND there was no history in the NFL to justify a harsher sentence, so this is the solution. It’s better than it was, sure. But part of me feels that if he beat up a person who “matters” he would’ve gotten fired, never mind the new rule of 6 game suspension.

    The NFL is doing what they can given all the details and I’m glad they made the changes, I truly am. What’s sad is that it still shows how we don’t give a crap about women as a society

    • tealily says:

      I disagree that there is “no history in the NFL to justify a harsher sentence.” Their sentences for various offenses have been pretty arbitrary, really, and plenty have been harsher than two game suspensions. They could have chosen any sentence they liked and they chose to apply an extremely lenient one. It is only after universal panning of this sentence that they realized it was a misstep.

      And yes, the NFL does not give a crap about women. They still don’t, but at least they realize that they are supposed to look like they do. Further proof of this: they also recently retracted on-field ads for “Slap Ya Mama” hot sauce during New Orleans Saints games. This does zero to address domestic violence, but hey, LOOK! They DID something!

  12. pleaseicu says:

    That was surprisingly candid and responsible of Goodell. I’m actually shocked that he took full responsibility for screwing up the Ray Rice case and implementing a stronger stance now. It may not be far enough but it’s a heck of a lot stronger than the previously policy. I wish it’d be a zero tolerance one and done policy, with both DV and Sexual Violence, but I don’t expect to ever see that type of strict policy implemented in any major professional sport in this country in my lifetime anyway.

    If only they’d address their penalty policy for sexual violence. That needs to be revisited and revised ASAP.

    I was disappointed in the response issued from the NFL Players Association in the wake of the announcement of the new DV policy. I don’t know what I was expecting from the Association, I didn’t expect an endorsement or anything, but it read to me like they were already on the defensive about it. No acknowledgement that DV is a serious issue that needs to be addressed in the NFL community. Just the new policy exists and we’re going to defend with all we’ve got if we feel like due process is violated. Made me think their attorneys were already brainstorming ways to assert any possible due process claim they could think of to get a player out of trouble before a new case is ever brought under the new policy.

  13. teehee says:

    Damn, that video–!!

  14. Ginger says:

    I don’t really watch the NFL anymore precisely for their leniency on players that commit all kinds of illegal activity including domestic violence. I think it’s ridiculous what they allow their players to get away with. All in the name of money, certainly not the sport. At any other regular job most people would be fired for illegal activity on or off the job. It’s time they addressed the issue but no, I don’t think it’s strict enough.

  15. Chelly says:

    This “woman” went on & still married that loser AND even APOLOGIZED on national tv for her part. W women like that, dv will never be taken as seriously as it should

  16. Silly you says:

    NOPE. The new policies don’t go far enough by a long shot. As many here have pointed out, failing a drug test will get a player in way worse trouble than domestic violence will. Todd at does a good job of explaining why the NFL is full of crap on this.

  17. Denise says:

    BAN Michael Vick FOREVER! He is nothing but a low life piece of S__T!

  18. Vera says:

    I think the only thing that Rice is sorry for is that he got caught on tape.

  19. tarheel says:

    Remember: the NFL pays ZERO taxes, they are considered a non-profit, even though they rake in literally billions and billions a year.

    The NFL thinks very little about women, as their stance on DV, sexual assault, and their cheerleaders proves.

  20. nicegirl says:

    OMYGOSH I just saw the video of this assault and it is disgustingly appalling. It is truly horrific. I hope the lady involved gets the support she needs to get away from this monster.