Female senators call on NFL's Goodell for 'zero tolerance' on violent assault

Sixteen women in the Senate said the NFL's new policy for domestic violence is still too lenient.
By Gabrielle Levy  |  Sept. 11, 2014 at 5:18 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- A bipartisan group of female senators sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell calling for "zero tolerance" for incidences of domestic abuse.

The senators said they were "shocked and disgusted" by the actions of Ray Rice, the running back who was cut from the Baltimore Ravens this week after footage surfaced showing him punching his then-fiancee in an elevator. Furthermore, they said, the NFL's new, ostensibly tougher policy still allowed a player who committed one violent offense to return to play.

"Tragically, this is not the only case of an NFL player allegedly assaulting a woman even within the last year," the letter from 16 senators said. "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."

It was signed by Sens. 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., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., 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., all but four of the upper chamber's female members.

The letter follows one from Democrat members of the House Judiciary Committee, sent Wednesday, condemning Goodell's lack of transparency.

When the incident first came to the league's attention, the NFL suspended Rice for just two games, a punishment Goodell later admitted was inadequate. He was initially indicted by a grand jury for third-degree assault, but the charges were dropped when he agreed to undergo counseling.

Last month, before the Rice video went public, Goodell instituted a tougher policy for players accused of domestic violence, with a minimum six-game suspension for the first offense, and a lifetime ban on the second.

Rice this week was suspended indefinitely from the league -- although Goodell said he won't rule out Rice eventually returning -- and advocates say that isn't good enough.

Several women's groups have called for Goodell's resignation, calls which may only grow louder if allegations the video was seen by an NFL executive months ago prove true. The league announced Wednesday it initiated an investigation, headed by former FBI director Robert Mueller, to lead an inquiry.

The full text of the letter follows:

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.

Sincerely,

Senators 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., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., 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.

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