NFL institutes new domestic violence policy

Ray Rice has begun serving his two-game suspension for his fight with his then-fiancee, but the fallout from that fight continues to have a wide-reaching impact throughout the NFL.

On August 28, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced in a letter to all 32 team owners that the league would be implementing a new policy for domestic violence offenses by its players as part of its personal conduct policy, according to ESPN.com. Under the domestic violence section of the policy, which was unanimously approved by the owners, a player will be suspended for six games for a first offense, and will be banned for life with a second offense. Offenses don’t necessarily have to mean that the accused are found guilty in court, but the league says each case would be judged individually. However, someone who receives a lifetime ban can apply for reinstatement to the league after one year. The policy applies to all league personnel, and appears to be in response to harsh criticism the NFL has received following the announcement that Rice would be suspended for only two games after knocking his then-fiance Janay Palmer unconscious with a punch when they got into a fight inside an elevator in the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey in February.

In a letter to owners, Goodell said of the decision for the two-game suspension for Rice: “We got it wrong.” He went on to write: “Our personal conduct policy has long made clear that domestic violence and sexual assault are unacceptable.” Goodell added that the league must do a better job of addressing domestic violence and sexual assault incidents, and will work to do so.

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and they have no place in the NFL under any circumstances,” Goodell wrote.

Under the policy, all players and other team and league personnel will start with a clean slate. However, it had barely gone into effect before a player already found himself under its microscope. San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested on August 31 on suspicion of domestic violence. Head coach Jim Harbaugh (brother of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh) says that McDonald will play in the 49ers’ season opener at Dallas. General Manager Trent Baalke says the team will handle disciplining McDonald.