National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to all NFL teams today outlining a drastic new domestic violence policy involving all personnel of the league. In the letter, Goodell admitted he heard the public outcry over the light punishment delivered to Ray Rice, and admitted that the NFL got it wrong.
It was a major admission from a league that rarely admits it got it wrong.
The new policy, which the NFLPA did not have to approve because it falls under the personal conduct policy, will make it a six game suspension for a first time domestic violence offense. A second offense will result in an indefinite suspension and could lead to a lifetime ban.
From the letter itself:
Recently, we have addressed issues of respect – respect for co-workers, opponents, fans, game officials, and others. Whether in the context of workplace conduct, advancing policies of diversity and inclusion, or promoting professionalism in all we do, our mission has been to create and sustain model workplaces filled with people of character. Although the NFL is celebrated for what happens on the field, we must be equally vigilant in what we do off the field.
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.
So far there is not much clarification on what constitutes an offense. Domestic violence often goes unreported and even when reported prosecutions are pretty rare. This definition will matter in determining punishment but it’s a major policy statement regardless.
It will be interesting to see if the league utilizes this new policy to address the Greg Hardy incident.
In the letter, the Commissioner issued a Memo to all NFL personnel outlining it’s new policies. You will find the Memo in it’s entirety below:
MEMORANDUM TO ALL NFL PERSONNEL
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.
If you believe that you or someone you know may be at risk of domestic violence or other misconduct, we strongly encourage you to seek assistance through your club’s director of player engagement, human resources department, the NFL LifeLine or an independent local domestic violence resource. Help is available and can prevent potentially tragic incidents.
Well done NFL. While long overdue, we welcome any progress that is made in addressing this issue. This time, you got it right.