Sixteen female senators urge Roger Goodell to adopt zero-tolerance policy against domestic violence

Letter sent to NFL commissioner

(Mark Wilson / Getty Images )
September 11, 2014|By Aaron Wilson | The Baltimore Sun

Sixteen female senators have sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell requesting that the NFL adopt a zero-tolerance policy against domestic violence.

Goodell recently instituted a policy with a six-game suspension for first-time domestic violence offenders and a lifetime ban with the possibility of reinstatement after a year for second offenses.

The letter to Goodell, also sent to The Baltimore Sun, follows former Ravens running back Ray Rice being indefinitely suspended for his domestic violence incident, for which he was charged with felony aggravated assault. The Ravens terminated Rice's $35 million contract on Monday.

“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," the letter stated. "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 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 letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

"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," the letter stated.

The NFL announced on Wednesday night that former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III would conduct an investigation into how the league pursued and handled evidence in the case.

His investigation will be overseen by New York Giants owner John Mara and Pittsurgh Steelers owner Art Rooney.  Mueller was FBI director for a dozen years from 2001 to 2013. He's currently a partner in the law firm of WilmerHale and is based in Washington, D.C.

Both Mara and Rooney have close ties to Goodell.

Ravens team president Dick Cass worked previously at the same D.C. law firm as Mueller, but they didn't overlap and haven't worked together. Cass worked at the firm from 1972 to 2003. Cass was chairman of the firm's business transactions section and a member of its management committee.

Here's the full text of the letter:

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.

awilson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/RavensInsider

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