this May 23, 2014, file photo, Baltimore Ravens running back
Ray Rice, right, speaks alongside his wife, Janay, during a
news conference, Friday, May 23, in Owings Mills, Md.
Rice’s two-game suspension for domestic violence begins
Saturday, a punishment handed down after grainy video showed
him dragging his then-fiancee off a casino elevator
unconscious Feb. 15. He has not divulged what happened in
the elevator except to call his actions "totally
inexcusable'' at a news conference after his suspension was
announced. His assault charges could be expunged once he
completes a diversion program. So the NFL gave him the only
punishment he likely faces in a suspension and a fine that
totals more than $500,000.
NEW YORK —
Acknowledging he "didn't get it right" with a two-game
suspension for Ravens running back Ray Rice, NFL Commissioner
Roger Goodell announced tougher penalties for players accused of
domestic violence, including six weeks for a first offense and at
least a year for a second.
In a letter sent
to all 32 team owners Thursday and obtained by The Associated
Press, Goodell never mentions Rice by name but makes clear
references to the Baltimore player who was charged with assault
after being caught on video dragging his then-fiancee off a casino
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," Goodell wrote. "I didn't
get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will."
2000, 77 players have been involved in 85 domestic violence
incidents with six being cut by their teams, according to USA
Today's NFL Arrests Database. The NFL suspended six players for
one game each, and Rice was the second player to be suspended for
defensive end Greg Hardy was convicted in July of assaulting his
ex-girlfriend and has appealed for a jury trial set for November.
His league punishment has not been announced. Goodell's letter
doesn't state clearly how the league will handle pending cases and
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email, "Each case will
be addressed individually on its merits."
Rice's punishment prompted three members of Congress to write to
the commissioner asking him to reconsider Rice's suspension; the
governor of Maine also threatened to boycott the league, and
numerous groups that advocate for women and families condemned the
penalty as too lenient.
told teams to distribute his memo to all players and to post it in
locker rooms. It reads in part: "Domestic violence and sexual
assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and
have no place in the NFL under any circumstances."
The memo says
that violations of the league's personal conduct policy
"regarding assault, battery, domestic violence and sexual
assault that involve physical force will be subject to enhanced
The NFL Players
Association said it had been informed of the increased
"As we do in
all disciplinary matters, if we believe that players' due process
rights are infringed upon during the course of discipline, we will
assert and defend our members' rights," the union statement
conduct policy is not subject to collective bargaining with the
players' union, and the commissioner has leeway to impose
punishments for such off-field violations. Goodell's statement
also did not stipulate whether the commissioner would act before a
player is formally charged.
particularly applaud your decision to impose tougher penalties,
and to give serious consideration to circumstances that may
warrant even harsher consequences," said Esta Soler, chief
executive of the advocacy group "Futures Without
Violence," who met last week with Goodell.
that this is not an issue that can be addressed overnight, and
intimate partner violence will not be eliminated by tougher game
penalties alone," the statement continued. Goodell promised
more training and education for staff and players.
begins Saturday. He has never said exactly what happened in the
elevator, and he and the woman in the video are now married. Rice
apologized publicly and said his actions were "totally
domestic violence offense will draw a six-week ban without pay,
although the memo says "more severe discipline will be
imposed if there are aggravating circumstances such as the
presence or use of a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when
the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence
of a child."
A second offense
will result in banishment from the league, but a player will be
allowed to petition for reinstatement after a year.
"There is no
assurance that the petition will be granted," the memo says.
notes other steps the league will take to "strengthen our
policies on domestic violence and sexual assault," including
efforts to educate all NFL employees on the subject.