Yesterday, the league officially announced that it has revised its policies when it comes to disciplining NFL personnel involved in issues of domestic violence. The stress here is on all personnel within the league’s employ, not just the players.
Under the new policy, a first offense for a player violating the personal conduct policy pertaining to domestic abuse would receive a six-game suspension, with mitigating factors potentially reducing or extending the suspension. A repeat offender would be given a lifetime ban from the league. They can appeal for reinstatement after a year, but a hearing of the appeal will not be guaranteed.
In a letter sent from Roger Goodell to the league’s owners, the Commissioner spoke about the issues that I have addressed previously when commenting on the two-game suspension handed to Ray Rice. He talked about respect, and doing what is necessary to “protect the integrity of the game” on and off the playing 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.
The truth of the matter is that the league was caught with their pants down—or rather caught with the significant other of one of their employees down. The NFL has been lax on issues of domestic violence far too long for this move to be taken as a natural and genuine change of heart.
Every now and then, we would hear of an incident of a player involved in a domestic dispute, but it would quickly go out of sight, out of mind, and the league couldn’t have been happier about it. But the latest incident was on video, and it brought home to thousands the reality of domestic violence, and only made comical the discrepancy between the punishment and the crime.
The public would not let the league back down this time. They had no choice but to attempt to make amends by incorporating these new policies as they begin to bend backwards to appease the fans that it has disturbed by its treatment of acts of violence in comparison to substance abuse.
And frankly, I don’t think it matters anymore whether or not the gesture is genuine. What was necessary to happen has happened, and the league can pretend to be the gracious leader and provider once again.
For some people, it may be too little, too late, at least in terms of regaining any respect for the way the NFL conducts its business and polices its employees. But whether this change and others listed in Goodell’s letter to the owner’s is a public relations gesture or not—regardless of the fact that their hand was forced—I think the league is better off now because of it.