Report: NFL Considering Harsher Penalties In Domestic Violence Cases

Has the NFL had a change of heart?

At the very least, it seems that league has been experiencing a growing realization that the public does not accept their current disciplinary policy on matters of domestic violence among their players, as enunciated through their actions—and that it would be detrimental to their reputation not to do something about it.

When commissioner Roger Goodell first came down with the two-game suspension for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice following his arrest for domestic violence after knocking his now wife unconscious, I wrote that it was not a decision that was in the league’s best interests.

Commissioner Goodell, and other top ranking officials, often invoke the idea of “the integrity of the shield” when explaining decisions on disciplinary actions. In other words, even in cases in which no crime has been committed, nor league policy explicitly violated, the league still reserves the right to discipline players that have compromised the integrity of the NFL’s public image.

Rice certainly did that, but the most damaging facet of this situation to the league’s reputation has without question been the toothless nature of the discipline rendered in response. Reactions have been strong in opposition to the punishment, particularly from the NFL’s female fan base, as well as from domestic violence advocacy groups.

It is thus with little surprise, yet with a dose of cynicism, that I accept a recent report that the league is considering establishing harsher penalties in the future for players who commit acts of domestic violence.

For too long, quite frankly, the NFL has largely turned a blind eye to instances of domestic violence within its own ranks, a charge to which the Pittsburgh Steelers are not immune. Were it not for the surveillance footage and the interjection of TMZ, it’s not inconceivable that they would have attempted to sweep Rice’s arrest under the rug.

But, as former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “sunlight is the best disinfectant”. And now that the issue of domestic violence has been graphically dragged into the sunlight, it’s better late than never that the NFL seems ready to take the issue more seriously.

According to an article in The Washington Post, a source familiar with the league’s internal discussions believes that “we need to have stricter penalties” for cases of domestic violence. “I think you will see that”, he said. “I believe the commissioner and others would like to see stricter penalties. We need to be more vigilant”.

The same source said that many “were disturbed” by aspects of the Rice case and that he believes that we “will see something in probably the next few weeks”. It is suggested that a first offense could be in the range of four to six games, while repeat offenders could receive a suspension for a full season.

Such disciplinary action would at least be in line with similar penalties that players receive in response to charges of taking performance enhancing substances or other banned substances.

I can’t speak for an audience any more broad than myself, but for me, such changes would at least begin to repair the damage the NFL has inflicted upon itself by its lax treatment of employees involved in issues of domestic violence.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Too little too late. The fact they are already reconsidering shows their incompetence. Substantial punishment for what Ray Rice did should have been a no brainer. I can’t even imagine what the punishment would have been if the player in question dawned a Steeler uniform. smh

  • Jacque Strappe

    Roger needs a do over. What a clown.

  • 20Stoney

    I still can’t believe they only came down with a 2 game suspension. What were they thinking?

  • Jason

    How can a multi billion dollar industry be led by such a moron? His random levels of discipline are mind boggling. Roethisberger accused of a crime with no real evidence 6 games (reduced to 4). Ray Rice knocks out his GF on camera hmm let’s reach in the discipline bag and see what we get, 2 games.I’ll always love my Steelers but this guy is doing his best to ruin the league for me.

  • Lil Smitty

    I find it interesting that this declaration comes after the Rice decision. There have been incidences of punishments for more than 2 games for none felony charges in the past. I think that is what was so shocking to most people. There are several incidences of possible discipline coming up before the Commish. Will he use this declaration to give these other cases higher suspensions and fines while leaving Rice’s where it is at. If he does that, I could see some of these players considering lawsuits against the league.

  • michael young

    If it is true that Goodell didn’t consult someone who is an expert on domestic violence before making his decision then he is truly at fault for poor judgement (or worse). My wife is a trained domestic violence response member (volunteer) and the very first thing they teach you is the likelihood of someone getting caught the first time is highly unlikely. The whole, “he doesn’t have a history of this” doesn’t hold water with me or anyone who has a clue about domestic violence (I helped my wife study for her classes). Now that Goodell feels the heat it’s all the sudden a time to reflect and make changes? Please! He had a shot to make a true statement and he whiffed. There are no do overs in life. He can try to change it now and that certainly will help moving forward but his decision with Ray Rice says way more about him then anything he will do at this point. Some do because it is the right thing. Some do because they are forced to. Sadly, I feel in this case it is the latter.

  • 2443scott

    good old goodel pulling up his pants out the flood hes created and acting now like fema coming to the rescue with opens hands like allstate saying come let us save you …it only took a steeler player now to be acused of it … hes seen the light like from heaven ..i can see him now on his knees saying i hear you loyal nfl fans please forgive me for i have sined but seened the light ..i now promise to do every thing in my power to defend the innocent…then the little smirk in the turn of the head now to lower the boom on some 1…

  • mem359

    Considering all the bad press, Goodell should suspend himself for 2 games (which he will reduce to 1 for good behavior) for weakening the “integrity of the shield”.

  • colingrant

    CONSIDERING ????????

  • Zivco

    I don’t understand the outrage when NFL players commit acts of domestic violence at less then half the rate society does.

    And these numbers have been greatly…and on many occasions wrongly increased due to the fact over 20 states have “must arrest” laws on the books regarding 911 calls that police infer are due to domestic violence.

    Rice’s wife was determined to have sustained no injuries by both the police and the emt’s at the scene. Rice was fined over 500K in addition to the same justice meted out to every other first time offender. If you think there is a problem, your anger should be directed at the laws on the books rather then the NFL. How one treats ones relations has nothing to do with his ability to perform on the job in the NFL.

    I’m not condoning any acts of violence…but much like “bullying” and “shaming” this is facebook nation run amuck.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The worst part is that Goodell tried to defend Rice’s punishment, I believe during Hall of Fame weekend, by saying that it was consistent with similar offenses and that they had to stick to that.

  • Matthew Marczi

    This has nothing to do with laws, but rather the NFL’s ability to police its own interests. And with those intetests so intertwined with public opinion, this whole situation was an obvious misstep. The evidence to support that is overwhelming. But then again it doesn’t sound like domestic violence is something that you consider to be much of a big deal.


    Big Ben would’ve been out for the whole year apparently if that was him on that video…I mean come on he got 6 games with NO charges or video evidence! Go Steelers..and f*** that $44,000,000.00 piece of sh** Goodell

  • RealMenDon’tAbuse

    In what way it the rate of domestic violence relevant when considering one case of confirmed abuse? If one man was on trial for murder in North Dakota, would we say, “Well, we should drop these charges because murder rates are higher in Louisiana,: That makes no sense.

  • RealMenDon’tAbuse

    Also, you seem to have a pretty profound misunderstanding of domestic violence statistics. No policy maker worth their salt would cite arrest statistics as a way of seeing how much DV there is in the country, so supposed “must arrest” laws don’t affect these numbers. Instead, you use anonymous surveys to capture the many, many people who are being abused and don’t report to the authorities. There is at least four decades of research documenting the artificially low rates of reporting for crimes like DV and sexual assault.

  • RealMenDon’tAbuse

    Thanks for posting this, Matthew. The NFL had an opportunity to hit an easy, obvious moral homerun and they somehow botched it. They should be ashamed of themselves. I’d be VERY interested to hear someone articulate how smoking a joint a couple of times is a more serious moral failure than beating your wife until she is unconscious. Goddell is a moron and a coward.

    Also, anyone who has worked with DV victims for more than ten minutes knows that Ms. Rice’s advocacy for her husband after the fact is COMPLETELY consistent with the behavior of many battered people. Goodell could not have handled this in a dumber way.

  • Patch

    This is setting up a 4 game suspension for Pouncey if any evidence comes out for the Miami nightclub “incident”.

  • BFB

    They are “going to get tougher” here? Ben was treated as guilty and he and our team took a way harsher hit than Ray and the Ravens on Goodell’s say so alone. He had everything he needs in his power to have made this harsher and set an example. Another example of Goodell’s incompetence and favoritism. This jagov needs to go and now. He is a stain on the league.
    Not condoning Ben’s actions way back then but pointing out the hypocrisy this man spews! Got to wonder what Rice would have faced if it had been Goodell’s daughter taking the beating?

  • BFB


  • BFB

    Okay, we get it. You are an “expert”. Can we keep it in the context of football and the punishment aspect? Dr Phil has a discussion site too.

  • Gautama Om

    The whole plan was to let Goodell’s team, the Ravens, slide this one time and then hammer everybody else afterwards.

    If they are reconsidering it this shortly after the Rice sentencing, then they need should change his sentencing all together. After all Rice has not served it yet. Of course we all know it’s not going to happen.

  • HiVul

    I disagree with this entire mindset but specifically, I’ll echo what others have said, if you research domestic violence you’ll absolutely find it’s way more likely to be underreported than overreported. The statistics that you cite are for arrests, we have no idea what the actual rate of domestic violence is in the NFL compared to the rest of society.

    I’m not going to look into whether or not she sustained an injury because honestly it’s irrelevant, he was caught on tape punching her and then dragging her body. If she somehow didn’t sustain an injury then she’s very fortunate but that doesn’t mean a crime wasn’t committed.

    About directing anger towards the law and not the NFL–the obvious answer is that both are insufficient. Because the law is also lenient on domestic violence doesn’t excuse the NFL for any reason that I can think of.

    And yes one’s public image does affect one’s ability to do his job, when part of that job is to “protect the shield.”

    Domestic violence is a real thing, just because you might not have experience with it doesn’t mean it’s fabricated by your facebook friends…

  • Zivco

    She didn’t have a bruise…good Lord wonder what the blood alcohol was though?

    500k on top of normal criminal proceedings isn’t enough?

    What a joke…this wasn’t even an assault case…it was disorderly conduct at worse.

    This emotional nonsense is the reason the land of the free incarcerates more people then any prison state in history of the world.

    Rice is pretty sorry rb at this point…I’m not going to fake outrage over not even a bruise.

  • Steve

    Have to hide behind a fake made up name.

  • Steve

    Mr. Goodell needs to appoint a person(s) to handle Player punishment which is beyond his realm.

  • RealMenDon’tAbuse

    You could just stick to the merits of the argument or ignore the thread completely. This article isn’t about football, so I am not sure why you are surprised that the discussion isn’t either. Empty personal attacks are not a substitute for reason.

  • RealMenDon’tAbuse

    My name is Sam Wilmoth. I don’t have a permanent Disqus profile. I don’t know why I would need to hide here. Is there something particularly shameful about knowing some stuff about domestic violence? Not sure why you seem to be bothered by this discussion. This just seems like a defensive response for no reason. Is there something I said that you disagree with? If so, I’m happy to discuss it.

  • RealMenDon’tAbuse

    She was unconcious

  • michael young

    Yes, clearly the problems in the land of the free are due to domestic violence outrage. Let’s get this country back on track by being wife beater apologists.

  • R1ddl3_0f_$t33l

    I am hoping your post is a parody– you can’t be this flamboyantly idiotic.
    Any normal person would get fired from their job for even being charged with wife/child abuse (and rightfully so). These guys are already enjoying a huge PIRVILEGE– one they should be equally as capable of being deprived of.
    I won’t even go into your subversive nonsense about us being a police state other than to remind you that there are people in the world who would kill you where you stand for even claiming such a thing, with the relative luxury we live in.
    Any human being except an ISIS enforcer (or you apparently) is digusted by the videos of Ray Rice dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator by her hair, caveman style. That’s not how you treat your wife, soon to be or otherwise.

  • R1ddl3_0f_$t33l

    You are a fool.
    HE DRAGGED HER CARCASS OUT OF THE ELEVATOR BY HER HAIR! Like something out of a goddam Far Side comic.
    If you don’t see the blatant disrespect to all women within that act alone (even if she just fell and knocked herself unconscious), you’ve got to be kinda dense.
    The NFL is a marketing machine. You don’t sell units by alienating part of the demographic you are trying to appeal to. Not to mention, the behavior is abhorrent.
    So, from your crazy rants, I assume you are neither with a girl, nor married to one….

  • R1ddl3_0f_$t33l

    ANY NORMAL PERSON WOULD LOSE THEIR JOB, as soon a they ggt wind of you being arrested for beating up your wife. Because by keeping you around– they are implicitly saying that they condone, and are helping to enable the behavior.

  • Hope these measures will act as deterrent.