In what may go down in history as one of the first instances of a billion dollar corporation caving into the pressure of think-piecing, hot-taking, and twitter-shaming, the NFL announced today that they would provide for stiffer penalties for players involved in domestic violence incidents. I think they’re probably just as shocked themselves as the rest of us that they sort managed to get something right.
It’s about time. The league has had a bit of a PR nightmare on its hands the past year or two, with lawsuits brought by former players, the ongoing concussion issue, drug suspensions, the racist-ass Redskins name controversy, bullying in the locker room, its handling of the first openly gay player in the league, and a number of high profile off the field incidents including one star player turning into a serial killer out of nowhere. But when Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice received a mere two game suspension after video emerged of him knocking his then fiance unconscious in an elevator earlier this year, the outrage, in this case, completely called for, was overwhelming. It’s not often you can say that about internet outrage.
Making the Rice situation even more troubling is that it’s come at the same time as another player, the Browns’ Josh Gordon, has had his suspension for an entire year upheld by the league. His offense? Smoking marijuana.
Granted, this wasn’t Gordon’s first time running afoul of the rules, but the disparity in the punishments between smoking weed, something that has been increasingly decriminalized throughout the country, and striking one’s lady friend struck most observers as woefully tone deaf.
The NFL, to their credit — and, again, this is not a league known for its ability to bend to public sentiment — regrouped in the face of the controversy, and are at least trying to do the right thing here. Now, commissioner Roger Goodell announced to team owners today, players who commit acts of domestic violence will be suspended for 6 games upon a first offense, and banned indefinitely for any further incidents.
“At times… and despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals,” Goodell wrote. “We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”
It’s a testament to how convoluted the issue has become that I even find myself applauding the league for finally getting around to righting this ridiculous oversight, but it’s a step in the right direction.