The NFL announced on Thursday afternoon that they would be implementing a domestic violence initiative which sees a six-game suspension for a first offense, and a lifetime ban for the second.
Roger Goodell announced the new policy in a letter to the owner in response to the criticism he received in the handling of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. Rice was handed down a two game suspension after he was caught striking his then-girlfriend Janay Palmer and pulling her unconscious body out of a lift.
Many perceived this punishment as a testament to the NFL not taking domestic violence as seriously as other crimes. The number of games suspended was less than other infractions such as substance abuse, steroid abuse, and DUI's. Goodell responded to these matters in his letter.
"At times, however, and despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals," Goodell wrote. "We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. ... 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."
In regards to the first offense, the letter includes the ability to institute a more serious punishment in certain instances.
"Among the circumstances that would merit a more severe penalty would be a 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," read Goodell's letter. "A second offense will result in banishment from the NFL."
A player will have the option to apply for reinstatement after banishment. It is unknown whether the NFL sees this as a truly viable option or a rare opportunity. The letter also includes all NFL employees, not solely the players.
Goodell can not change his punishment for Rice. However, he can learn from it, and this measure is the first step. Domestic violence is a serious offense, and the NFL is finally showing they are beginning to understand this. It is finally being treated with the necessary attention.
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