SHAHEEN, AYOTTE JOIN WOMEN SENATORS IN URGING NFL COMMISSIONER TO INSTITUTE ZERO-TOLERANCE POLICY FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

16 Senators Tell League that Current Policy Sends Terrible Message that a Player Can Commit a Violent Act Against a Woman and Return After a Short Suspension

September 11, 2014

Washington, D.C. –  U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) today joined a bipartisan group of Senate women in writing National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to urge the league to institute a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence.

“We were shocked and disgusted by the images we saw this week of one of your players violently assaulting his now-wife and knocking her unconscious, and at new reports that the NFL may have received this video months ago. Tragically, this is not the only case of an NFL player allegedly assaulting a woman even within the last year,” the Senators wrote. “We are deeply concerned that the NFL’s new policy, announced last month, would allow a player to commit a violent act and return after a short suspension. If you violently assault a woman, you shouldn’t get a second chance to play football in the NFL.”

The Senators continued, “It is long past time for the NFL to institute a real zero-tolerance policy and send a strong message that the league will not tolerate violence against women by its players, who are role models for children across America.”

On Monday, Ray Rice’s contract was terminated by the Baltimore Ravens after video emerged of the NFL player violently attacking his now-wife, knocking her unconscious. The NFL suspended him indefinitely, but in an interview this week, Commissioner Goodell refused to rule out allowing Rice to return to the NFL in the future.

Under the NFL’s current disciplinary policy – announced in August – players who commit a violent crime are subject to a 6-game suspension for a first offense, potentially allowing players who commit violent offenses like domestic violence or sexual assault to return to the field during the same season. Players would only be banned from the NFL after committing a second violent act, and they are allowed to petition for reinstatement after one year.

Just three days after the NFL announced its new league-wide policy on domestic violence, another player was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence. Another player has been convicted of assaulting and threatening to kill a former girlfriend, and another was signed to a new contract even after being arrested and charged for assaulting a woman. Despite the NFL’s new policy, all continue to play with their teams.

The letter was also signed by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). 

The full text of the letter follows:

September 11, 2014

Mr. Roger Goodell

Commissioner

National Football League

345 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10154

Dear Commissioner Goodell:

As we mark the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, we call on the NFL to institute a real zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence that will ensure that this type of violence and abuse has no place in the NFL.

We were shocked and disgusted by the images we saw this week of one of your players violently assaulting his now-wife and knocking her unconscious, and at new reports that the NFL may have received this video months ago. Tragically, this is not the only case of an NFL player allegedly assaulting a woman even within the last year. 

We are deeply concerned that the NFL’s new policy, announced last month, would allow a player to commit a violent act against a woman and return after a short suspension. If you violently assault a woman, you shouldn’t get a second chance to play football in the NFL.

The NFL’s current policy sends a terrible message to players, fans and all Americans that even after committing a horrific act of violence, you can quickly be back on the field.

It is long past time for the NFL to institute a real zero-tolerance policy and send a strong message that the league will not tolerate violence against women by its players, who are role models for children across America.  We hope the NFL will seize this opportunity to lead by example and demonstrate its commitment to the safety of women and families.

Sincerely,