SBD/August 15, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL's Proposed Increased Domestic Violence Punishment Draws Varied Response

The Washington Post report that the NFL is discussing heavier punishment for domestic abuse offenders is drawing a variety of reactions in columns and on sports talk TV shows.

: L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke called the proposed rules a positive, saying, "The media shouted about it, advocacy groups shouted about it, social media shouted about it, people complained. And the NFL, being a big business, listened. That's a huge victory for the fact there can be a groundswell of support in this country against something that's horrendous as domestic violence, and …it worked." Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said the "public reacted so negatively to what the NFL had done and the NFL finally -- even though it's big business and bigger than the people, if you will -- has listened to the people." The N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola: "I want to hear what the players union has to say about this, because when you're talking about a penalty where you're talking about eliminating a full season in a career where guys do not have a long shelf life in the NFL, that will be very interesting. But I think the NFL has gone from zero to 60 on this issue and it's a good thing" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/14). ESPN's Michael Smith said, "It feels like they're doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, because I'm trying to figure out what changed between now and the Hall of Fame game when Roger Goodell was defending the process. … He's doing it as a reaction to the widespread criticism from us and others" ("Numbers Never Lie," ESPN2, 8/14). Sports On Earth's Will Leitch said, "If they really wanted to take a strong stance on this, Roger Goodell would go out and say, 'It's four games, it's six games.' They're not doing that. They're leaking the notion that they may be doing something about it." FS1's Bill Reiter: "At least they're taking it seriously enough to try a trial balloon" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 8/14).

A STEP, NOT STILL NOT ENOUGH: USA TODAY's Lorenzo Reyes wrote, "Stricter penalties across the board ... deliver a statement." But the league is considering changes "in the wake of blistering criticism" for the Ray Rice suspension, and it is "doing so only after attempts at defending the decision ... were broadly ridiculed." It "shouldn’t require harrowing surveillance footage of Rice dragging his seemingly unconscious then-fiancée out of an elevator for the NFL to realize domestic violence is a serious concern it needs to address" (, 8/14). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette writes the proposed penalties may not be "harsh enough for any player who uses a woman as a punching bag." The move indicated the NFL "appears to recognize that its punishment of Rice ... was ridiculously lenient." Frenette: "But please don't applaud the NFL for coming to its senses. It should have stepped up to shame players who abuse women a long time ago" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 8/15). ESPN's Keith Olbermann said, "Wow! They're actually considering maybe doing something about tripling the penalty so that it increases all the way to inadequate" ("Olbermann," ESPN, 8/15).

A PURE PR PLAY: In Baltimore, Susan Reimer writes, “Ladies, this is what it feels like to be pandered to.” The NFL is “scrambling to get back in your good graces after appearing to care more about whether its players were smoking marijuana than whether they were punching out their girlfriends.” Reimer: “I have absolutely no expectation that the new policy will prevent a single punch from being thrown.” That is “not how domestic violence works,” and it is “not going to neutralize the toxic mix of testosterone and entitlement in players.” This looks for "all the world like putting lipstick on a pigskin” (Baltimore SUN, 8/15). 

: ESPN's Jason Whitlock called the idea "sound public relations" but noted he would "like to see the NFL try to force players into some type of educational program before they get into trouble." Whitlock: "Punishment for the sake of punishment, bowing to public pressure -- I think they should be very careful here. Education does a better job than punishment" ("PTI," ESPN, 8/14). ESPN's Bomani Jones said, "The likelihood of this being a deterrent to domestic violence in my opinion is probably low because it doesn't seem like the sort of crime where somebody is stopping and weighing the cost/benefit of it before they perform it" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/14).
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