As calls for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign grow, a bipartisan group of 16 female senators wrote a letter to league urging a zero-tolerance policy on domestic violence. The letter, which brings up the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, calls on the league 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."
The letter, also sent to the Baltimore Sun, notes that the Rice incident isn't even the first case of domestic violence in the NFL this year and argued that the league's new policy isn't strict enough. "If you violently assault a woman, you shouldn’t get a second chance to play football in the NFL," the senators wrote.
Of course, letters from Congress have had little effect on the actions of the NFL, other than to draw attention the problem at hand. Last month Sens. Blumenthal, Baldwin and Murphy wrote the commissioner urging him to issue a harsher punishment on Rice. In their letter the Democrats argued that the two game suspension "reflects a disturbingly lenient, even cavalier attitude towards violence against women."
And Congress isn't the only group hoping for drastic change. Earlier this week the National Organization of Women noted that Rice is only one of three players who have been accused or convicted of domestic violence charges – the other two are still playing. The NFL, NOW argued, "doesn’t have a Ray Rice problem; it has a violence against women problem." The organization called for Goodell to resign and for his replacement to hire an independent investigator to compile statistics of violence against women in the league and recommend reforms.
But before any sweeping changes can be made, the league has to decide whether it's firing Goodell for not handling the tape, or for all the poorly handled domestic violence issues the league has seen — and sometimes ignored — during his tenure.
Here's the full letter, 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.):
September 11, 2014
Mr. Roger Goodell
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.