FILE - In this March 25, 2014, file photo, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers questions during a news conference at the NFL football annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Players will be subject to a six-week suspension for a first domestic violence offense and banishment from the league for a second under a new policy outlined. (John Raoux/AP)
September 1, 2014

VIDEO FOOTAGE of Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Rice dragging the unconscious body of his soon-to-be wife from an elevator in Atlantic City was shocking and upsetting. Equally disturbing was the National Football League’s weak response to this clear-cut case of domestic violence. So it was unexpected — and refreshing — to see NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell revisit the issue with an acknowledgment he had erred with the lenient punishment and the announcement of tougher penalties for domestic violence offenses.

“I didn’t get it right,” was Mr. Goodell’s forthright admission in a letter to team owners last week about the paltry two-game suspension handed out in July to Mr. Rice. He had been charged with aggravated assault but entered into an agreement in which he would participate in a diversionary program, including counseling and community service, instead of going to trial.

Having to sit out two games was inconsistent with harsher punishments that had been issued for other nonviolent offenses and it sent an insidious message about how seriously — not so much — the league viewed the problem of domestic violence. A furious outcry followed the suspension.

The fact that Mr. Goodell listened to and really heard the critics is to his credit. So, too, is the fact he is giving more than lip-service to the issue by instituting more serious punishment for those who commit domestic violence or sexual assault. Included is a provision that would banish second-time offenders from the league for at least a year and provide no assurance of their reentry.

Continue reading