Today NFL Commissioner Goodell apologized for what was hardly a punishment for Ravens running back Ray Rice’s domestic violence incident. In a letter to team owners, Goodell took ownership of the decision and promised stronger responses for domestic violence as well as sexual assault, weapons offenses and impaired driving.
“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.”
And do better they shall. From henceforth, domestic violence and assault and/or battery-related violations of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy “will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense.” Second offenses will result in banishment from the NFL for one year, minimum. After one year, individuals can petition or reinstatement but with no guarantee that their petition will be granted. These policy changes will be in effect for players and all other NFL personnel, highlighting the new value and respect placed on these issues.
Arguably even more important is the rationale behind strengthening these policies, which (hopefully) formalizes the greater context in which this and other professional sports leagues operate and makes all of them consider the gravity of their actions, for better or for worse.
In his letter, Goodell went on to acknowledge the greater responsibility the NFL has to live up to a higher standard. While his reconsideration of this decision was a reaction to public backlash to the NFL’s timid response to such an egregious offense, Goodell’s words speak to the larger role and level of responsibility the players and all other members of the NFL organization play off the field.
“Although the NFL is celebrated for what happens on the field, we must be
equally vigilant in what we do off the field…. The public response reinforced my belief that the NFL is held to a higher standard, and properly so. Much of the criticism stemmed from a fundamental recognition that the NFL is a leader, that we do stand for important values, and that we can project those values in ways that have a positive impact beyond professional football. We embrace this role and the responsibility that comes with it.”
It’s good to see that this responsibility has been embraced at the very top. We’ll see how this plays out on the field. Hopefully these new, much heavier, sanctions will encourage players and other personnel to think twice about their actions, if their own moral compasses don’t already point them in the right direction.