The NFL stiffened its personal conduct policy -- which covers assault, battery and domestic violence -- on Aug. 28. The first offense is subject to a six-game suspension without pay. A second offense will result in a lifetime ban from the NFL.
The NFL stiffened its Personal Conduct Policy on Aug. 28.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote a letter to the NFL's 32 owners (via NFL.com) apologizing for his decision on the Ray Rice case. The commissioner also vowed to take a much stronger stance against domestic violence and other issues under the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy by enforcing a six-game suspension without pay for the first offense and a lifetime ban from the league for a second offense:
"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 here they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our 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.
"The public response reinforced my belief that the NFL is held to a higher standard, and properly so. 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. We will invest time and resources in training, programs and services that will become part of our culture. And we will increase the sanctions imposed on NFL personnel who violate our policies.
"In the past few weeks, I have reviewed all aspects of our Personal Conduct Policy and met with a wide range of experts (several of whom we have been working with for some time), as well as with the NFLPA and many of you. Those discussions will continue. They have helped us to identify a number of steps that will better communicate our position and strenghten our policies on domestic violence and sexual assault.
"These steps are based on a clear, simple principle: domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They have no place in the NFL and are unacceptable in any way, under any circumstances. That has been and remains our policy...
"...If someone is charged with domestic violence or sexual assault, there will be mandatory evaluation and, where professionallyl indicating, counseling or other specialized services. Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant.
"Among the circumstances that would merit a more severe penalty would be prior incident before joining the NFL, or 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 second offense will result in banishment from the NFL; while an individual may petition for reinstatement after one year, there will be no presumption or assurance that the petition will be granted. These disciplinary standards will apply to all NFL personnel."
espnW.com's Jane McManus added more details about the development:
"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.
"The measures come partly in response to intense criticism Goodell received for his handling of discipline for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who received a two-game suspension in July for assaulting his then-fiancee in February. Widely viewed as a soft punishment, Goodell left many with the impression that the NFL did not understand domestic violence or take it seriously as a crime.
"Goodell was affected more by people closer to him, including some owners, than by public reaction, the source told Brandt.
"The source told Brandt that Goodell had discussions with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and that lawyers for the league and union also talked, although it was unclear if an agreement was reached between the two sides.
"The increased penalties for domestic violence did not have to be collectively bargained because they fall under the personal conduct policy.
"The NFLPA reserved judgment in a statement released after the NFL's 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,' the union said.
"The Ravens had no immediate comment on the new policy after it was announced Thursday."