Members of the United States Congress sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Tuesday urging the league to penalize teams who do not take proper steps to curb domestic violence with a loss of draft picks. The letter lauded the NFL’s effort in recent months to enhance its Personal Conduct Policy, but called on Goodell to provide a definitive statement on measures to be taken against franchises who fail to educate players and punish those who engage in violent acts.
“The NFL has previously penalized teams by removing draft picks for other infractions, including the 2007 New England Patriots (videotaping opposing team signals) and the 2009-2012 New Orleans Saints (giving non-contract bonuses for injuring opposing team players). We support this potential disciplinary action as a significant indication that the NFL takes these issues very seriously and intends to hold teams responsible for allowing cultures of violence and abuse,” said the letter, signed by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA).
Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, appeared before a congressional panel in December 2014 to discuss the league’s handling of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s domestic assault case, as well as the steps the league would take to improve its disciplinary process in the future, according to CNN. Vincent said during that meeting that NFL officials would consider punishing franchises who did not actively seek to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault with a loss of draft picks, the letter said.
But Goodell has yet to say if the league will follow through. The Congressmen called on the commissioner to clarify the NFL’s stance and to hold league owners accountable for their players’ behavior.
“We urge you to create accountability at all levels of the NFL, particularly among team owners, who have the most direct financial incentives to avoid long-term suspensions and quickly get players back on the field,” the letter said.
The NFL announced an overhaul to its personal conduct policy last December, just days after Vincent met with the Congressional panel. Under the new policy, players found guilty of a violent act will receive a six-game suspension for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second offense. Goodell also announced the league would appoint a disciplinary officer to handle initial punishment of players found guilty of violent actions, as well as the establishment of a “Conduct Committee” to annually review and recommend changes to the conduct policy.