Does the NFL Condone Domestic Violence

By Daryl Hannah

#GoodellMustGo was the pervasive message in social and mainstream media on Sunday, as calls for the National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign escalated and clouded Sunday’s football headlines.

Fans, women’s rights groups and even the White House have issued fierce criticism condemning Goodell for the laughable two-game suspension and $500,000 fine he initially issued to former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice as punishment for punching and knocking out his now-wife Janay last July.

At the time, Goodell defended the punishment, saying it was consistent with league regulations. But after TMZ released video from inside the elevator—which showed the force with which Rice punched Janay, rendering her unconscious—Rice was fired by the Ravens and Goodell reversed his decision and suspended Rice indefinitely. All of which raised questions about how much the league knew and tried to hide from the public.

“It is time for Roger Goodell to resign, and for the NFL to get serious about its commitment to ending violence against women within the league,” Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of the women’s rights group UltraViolet, said in a statement. UltraViolet flew a banner over MetLife Stadium in New Jersey just before kickoff of the Arizona Cardinals versus New York Giants game on Sunday.

Since Goodell was named commissioner in 2006, 56 players have been arrested for and/or charged with domestic abuse. And in addition to Rice, there are two other pending cases of alleged domestic violence involving NFL players. Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was found guilty of assaulting his former girlfriend by a judge but has appealed the decision. His fate will now be decided by a jury. San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence against his girlfriend late last month. Both players have played for their teams while their legal cases are unresolved, although Hardy was deactivated this Sunday.


“Take them off the field,” Cris Carter, a Hall of Fame wide receiver who now works as an analyst at ESPN, said on the network’s Sunday NFL Countdown program. “We’re in a climate right now, I don’t care what it is. Take them off the dang-gone field. Because you know what As a man, that’s the only thing we really respect. We don’t respect no women. We don’t respect no kids. The only thing Roger [Goodell] and them can do—take them off the field, because they respect that.”

Despite the national outcry, Goodell has said he doesn’t plan to leave his post as commissioner and his bosses—the NFL’s 32 team owners—seem even less inclined to oust him.

Goodell has told owners that he is committed to doubling the league’s revenue from $10 billion to $25 billion by 2027 and has already helped double the value of NFL teams. As The New York Times points out, when Goodell first took over as commissioner in 2006, the Washington Redskins were the most valuable NFL team, according to Forbes magazine, with a valuation of $1.4 billion. The New England Patriots were second, valued by Forbes at $1.18 billion, followed by the Dallas Cowboys at $1.17 billion.

Forbes‘ most recent financial analysis of NFL teams, published earlier this month, shows the Dallas Cowboys as the No. 1 team, valued at $3.2 billion, almost triple their valuation of just eight years ago, with revenues of $560 million and profits of $246 million. Meanwhile, the New England Patriots saw their valuation jump to $2.6 billion. The Washington team, though now in third place, is still worth $1 billion more than it was in 2006.


Since the Ray Rice incident, some owners have vocalized their support for Goodell. John Mara, the co-owner of the Giants, has said flatly that Goodell’s job is not in jeopardy, and Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, has also come to Goodell’s defense. On Saturday, Washington owner Dan Snyder became the latest owner to back Goodell’s handling of the Rice case, saying in a statement: “Roger Goodell has always had the best interests of football at heart, both on and off the field. The entire Washington Redskins organization strongly endorses his efforts to eradicate domestic abuse and the independent investigation into the Ray Rice assault.” (It’s worth mentioning that earlier this summer, Goodell supported Snyder’s refusal to change Washington’s racist nickname.)

When asked in an interview that aired on CBS This Morning if he felt his job was in jeopardy, Goodell said: “I’m used to criticism. I’m used to that. Every day, I have to earn my stripes. Every day, I have to, to do a better job. And that’s my responsibility to the game, to the NFL and to what I see as society. People expect a lot from the NFL. We accept that. We embrace that. That’s our opportunity to make a difference, not just in the NFL but in society in general.”

On Monday, Goodell circulated a memo to the 32 teams outlining the league’s new anti-domestic-abuse policies and announced new additions to the league’s staff. He promoted Anna Isaacson from Vice President of Community Affairs and Philanthropy to Vice President of Social Responsibility, saying: “Anna has been leading our internal work relating to how we address issues of domestic violence and related social issues. In this new role, she will oversee the development of the full range of education, training and support programs relating to domestic violence, sexual assault and matters of respect with the goal of accelerating our implementation of the commitments made in my letter of August 28.”


He also hired Lisa Friel, the former Chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney’s Office; Jane Randel, a co-founder of NO MORE, “a national initiative to raise the profile of and normalize the conversation about domestic violence and sexual assault”; and Rita Smith, the former Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

According to the same memo, these new employees will oversee the development and implementation of the NFL’s domestic violence/sexual assault workplace policy; build on existing training curricula and education programs for all personnel, including players and non-players; disseminate and execute completed training programs for all 32 teams, including executives, coaches, players and staff; identify and manage DV/SA resources to enhance current services such as NFL Life Line and the NFL’s Employee Assistance Programs for league and club employees and their families; and identify and disseminate information to employees and families regarding resources outside of the NFL and clubs, including local advocacy and support organizations in each NFL community.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, said on the CBS program Face the Nation that if Goodell lied about when the league saw the second tape, “then he has to step down because he won’t have the force of authority to change how they address these issues.”

Gillibrand is one of 16 senators calling on Goodell to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on domestic violence for the league.

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