Roger Goodell is making a change to existing domestic violence policy, and it's a big one. The NFL commissioner came under fire last month after it was announced that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice would suffer just a two-game suspension and the loss of three game checks following a brutal assualt on his fiancée.
Back in February, security cameras at an Atlantic City casino where the couple were staying caught the running back dragging his unconscious fiancee, Janay Palmer (now Rice), out of an elevator. Rice was charged with aggravated assault but the pair have since married and Rice avoided going to trial for the crime by entering a pre-trial diversion program.
On July 24, the league announced their own punishment for Rice's actions. And the backlash was loud and fierce, especially in light of the NFL's policies regarding controlled substances like marijuana, possession of which can lead to a year's suspension and up to a whopping $500,000 fine. (Many in the sports community have called for revisions to these disciplinary policies as well.)
Taken together, the league gave the impression of being less concerned with domestic violence than with regulating the use of say, marijuana -- which, for one, is now legal for recreational use in two states.
While Goodell initially defended his decision in the Rice case, he's now revisited those policies and the result is a much stricter response. After the first offense of domestic violence, a player will be penalized with a six-game suspension. After the second, a player will be banned for life. Rice's two-week ban, however, won't be amended since his infraction occurred before the policies were revised.
In a strongly worded letter, Goodell explained how he came to alter league policy, writing that, "Although the NFL is celebrated for what happens on the field, we must be equally vigilant in what we do off the field." He added:
"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."
Click Here For The Full Text Of The Memo Goodell Sent To All 32 League Owners: