(NEW YORK) — The National Football League announced a change to its personal conduct policy following outcry regarding a controversial suspension for one of its players.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended for two games in connection with a video that surfaced earlier this year in which he allegedly struck his now-wife, Janay, and knocked her unconscious during an altercation at an Atlantic City, N.J. casino. The outcry that the suspension, issued by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, was too light was fierce and immediate.
Goodell initially defended the decision, pointing out that the length of the suspension matched the NFL’s existing policy.
Still, on Thursday, the commissioner sent a letter and an accompanying memo to each NFL team owner outlining changes to that very policy. Most notably, any player in violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy involving assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault will be subject to a suspension of six games for a first offense, with possible consideration for “mitigating factors,” and a lifetime ban for a second offense.
Goodell’s letter discusses “respect” and “the integrity of the game.” He notes that the steps taken Thursday “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.”
In addition to the altered suspension policy, team personnel will be expected to undergo comprehensive training to help “understand and identify risk factors associated with domestic violence.” Goodell also called upon expansion of the NFL’s existing college, high school and youth football programs.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said that the announcement alone was not enough. The league, he said, “must match words with actions.” While he applauded Goodell’s action, Blumenthal said that “the real work begins” now in hopes of solving the problem of domestic violence.
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