By a wide margin, domestic violence is the NFL's most prevalent off-field issue involving players. Marijuana is a close second. The video of Ray Rice dragging his unconscious then-fiancée out of an elevator and the outcry over his subsequent two-game suspension opened Commissioner Roger Goodell to a level of scrutiny he's never seen before. On Thursday, Goodell not only admitted that he made an error in a 2,000 word tome, but also unveiled a new policy that makes domestic violence the worst offense for anyone associated with the league to commit outside of gambling.
The policy is directed towards players and domestic violence applies to all incidents involving physical force from any high level NFL execs, owners or players.
A six-game suspension would be without pay and the length of the penalty could increase in these cases: an employee was involved in a prior incident before joining the NFL; 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-time offender may petition for reinstatement after one year but there is no assurance the petition would be granted, the letter said.
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.
Goodell's decision certainly is a bold one for a professional football league or any employer really. It'll be interesting to see whether the commissioners in the major professional leagues follow Goodell's example. Not only was this the best PR move for Goodell, it also took some of the heat off of the draconian 16-game suspension served up to Browns wide out Josh Gordon for a positive test that barely met the minimum threshold.
Smooth move sweeping that aside and killing two birds with one. That's how you run a professional sports league.