#MeToo Is Forcing The NFL To Look At Their Domestic Violence Policies

With Superbowl Sunday just days away, millions are expected to tune in and watch the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles. Amongst the millions of viewers set to tune in, more than half of them will be women. In lieu, the recent sexual assault allegations being brought to light throughout Hollywood, the music industry and most recently, the Larry Nassar Olympics sexual assault case, the NFL’s  lax policies protecting women against assault and domestic violence are being called out yet again.

Notable Cases of Domestic Violence in NFL

Unfortunately, there have been many domestic violence cases on record that have made news headlines for years. Back in 2014, Sports Illustrated published a list of all the domestic violence incidents that occurred within the last two years of the NFL. Between 2012 to 2014 a whopping 33 cases of domestic violence was reportedly made against NFL players, most notably former Miami Dolphins receiver Chad Johnson and former Baltimore Ravens kicker Ray Rice.

Miami Dolphins receiver Chad Johnson(2012)

In 2012 Johnson and his then-newlywed wife Evelyn Lozada reportedly got into a domestic violence dispute that resulted in Johnson being arrested for head-butting his wife. As a result of the assault, Johnson (who plead guilty and was sentenced to probation), was quickly cut from the Dolphins. The following May, Johnson was arrested for violating his probation, and as a result, he was then sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice 2014

On February 15,2014 Rice was arrested in Atlantic City following an altercation with his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer. Following the incident, video footage was released and showed Rice dragging his now wife out of the elevator while she was unconscious. After initially being indicted on third-degree aggravated assault charges, he wound up pleading not guilty and was sentenced to a pre-trial intervention program for first-time offenders.

As a result, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodwell only suspended Rice for two games, but as more video footage was released, Rice was eventually released from the Ravens and subsequently suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

 New York Giants kicker Josh Brown (2015)

In May of 2015, Brown was arrested on domestic violence charges and was suspended for just one game in August of 2016.

The NFL later revisited the case two months later after police documents showed Brown’s admissions of abusing his wife. Brown, who was placed on paid leave, was removed from the Giant’s roster. He was suspended for just six games but is not currently on the NFL roster.

A Change In Policy

Following the leniency of Rice’s cases, the NFL faced a significant backlash. Goodwell initially defended the suspension length. However, he quickly implemented new league-wide policies regarding sexual assault and domestic violence.

The new policies, which remain in place state, that players involved in sexual assault or domestic violence incidents will receive a six-game suspension for a first offense and a theoretical lifetime ban from the NFL for a second offense. Additionally, when a player is “formally charged with a violent crime or sexual assault” — or if an independent NFL investigation determines that they violated the personal conduct policy — they will immediately be placed on paid leave.

In addition to the new policies, the NFL’s 2016 Personal Conduct Policy states that upon committing a second offense, “an individual who has been banished may petition for reinstatement after one year, but there is no presumption or assurance that the petition will be granted.” The league does not guarantee reinstatement, but the ban instituted after a second offense cannot accurately be called a “lifetime ban.”

The Effects of #MeToo and The NFL

Since the new policies have been in effect, the NFL’s policies continue to come into question especially in Brown’s case. While Goodell’s new policies were immediately effective as of 2014, a league rep suggested the policy change was implemented to save the NFL’s image in light of the scandals. And while domestic violence continues to be a problem within the league many even suggest that the NFL should focus on tackling the root of the problem versus issuing suspensions.

Hopefully, with the rise of the #MeToo movement in full effect, it could potentially encourage women to speak out against domestic violence in the league and encourage more efficient changes and repercussions.

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