SBD/September 2, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Could Goodell Make Example Of Ray McDonald With New Domestic Violence Policy?

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With McDonald's incident, the 49ers now lead the league in arrests since '12
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the "right to suspend a player even if he is not charged or convicted of domestic violence" per the new league protocols Goodell issued last week, and his "first test" will be 49ers DE Ray McDonald, who was arrested over the weekend, according to Ryan O'Halloran of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION (9/2). CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto wrote Goodell is "going to drop the max" on McDonald. In addition to everything related to the arrest, McDonald will "find out what it is to commit an act of stunningly bad timing" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 8/31). THE MMQB's Peter King wrote if McDonald did "indeed lay his hands on a woman in the tenor of these times, he has just made the biggest mistake of his career -- and at just about the worst time possible." Goodell views this issue as one on which the NFL "has to take a lead role." It "seemed clear that the league may not wait for final court adjudication in the case." Goodell’s letter to the owners Thursday addressing the new policy said it is “effective immediately." King noted the "urgency of the issue could push the NFL to act sooner than the courts" (MMQB.SI.com, 9/1). In DC, Deron Snyder wrote McDonald "can count on a half-dozen games, even though causing minor bruises is nothing like knocking someone unconscious." Goodell will "use his letter and McDonald's ill-timed brainlessness for undeserved cover." However, the "sole problem -- Goodell as the sole arbiter -- remains the same" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/1). 

TAKING A STAND: In N.Y., Juliet Macur wrote it is "hard not to feel relieved by the new policy, considering all the women who might be spared, or saved, because these tougher punishments might scare some players into treating women with respect." Macur: "Let's cheer, just a little." However, some "phrases in Goodell's letter suggest that the new policy may have some holes" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/30). A WASHINGTON POST editorial runs under the header, "The NFL Takes The Right Steps To Discourage Domestic Violence." It was "unexpected -- and refreshing" -- to see Goodell "revisit the issue with an acknowledgment he had erred with the lenient punishment and the announcement of tougher penalties for domestic violence offenses." The fact that Goodell "listened to and really heard the critics is to his credit." So, too, is the "fact he is giving more than lip-service to the issue by instituting more serious punishment for those who commit domestic violence or sexual assault" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/2). The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan said, "This is a phenomenal triumph for ... the court of public opinion. Never has it screamed more loudly or gotten better results in the history of sports" ("Around The Horn," ESPN2, 8/29). Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said sports "sometimes get behind the times on a lot of stuff but Goodell was "right to say, 'I didn’t go far enough.'" ABC's Martha Raddatz noted Goodell is "not a man who admits mistakes readily." But ABC's Matthew Dowd said Goodell was "slow to act on a whole bunch of things" and "he needs to do much more" ("This Week with George Stephanopoulos," ABC, 8/31). USA TODAY's DeWayne Wickham writes to "overcome apprehensions, Goodell should be specific in citing the mitigating factors that might reduce the punishment for first-time offenders, as well as in listing the things a banned player must do to qualify for being allowed to rejoin an NFL team" (USA TODAY, 9/2). 

STILL ON HIS RECORD: In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes Goodell "doesn’t get the game ball for doing the right thing after doing the wrong thing." Goodell's ruling on Ravens RB Ray Rice "will still be a permanent part" of his record. But "so is the fact that he admitted to making a mistake like this in front of his sport, and in front of the country." It is a "good thing" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/2). In Boston, Ben Volin wrote under the header, "NFL Policy Change More About PR Than Conscience." There is "plenty of good" that will result from the new policy, including the fact the NFL is "going to focus a lot more on education and prevention, not just punishment." There also will be "enhanced training and education at the annual rookie symposium and rookie success program, as well as new programs for veteran players and other NFL personnel." Volin: "That said, we’re not ready to pat Goodell on the back and congratulate him for taking a tough stance on domestic violence just yet. Where was this toughness with Rice last month? Why does it take a public outcry for the NFL to come to its senses about stricter punishments for domestic violence?" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/31).

NEXT ON THE DOCKET: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell lists five things Goodell "needs to do, now," including to strengthen the league's alcohol policy. Since '00, more than a quarter of NFL "player arrests (which occur at a lower rate than the general population) have involved DUI cases." It takes a "second alcohol-related offense, though, to trigger a possible suspension." Goodell also needs to "establish a code of conduct for owners" and "change his stance" on the Redskins' nickname. He also could "pursue a developmental league," and consider moving a team to L.A., "not London" (USA TODAY, 9/2). 

A TROUBLING TREND: In S.F., Kevin Lynch noted the 49ers "now lead the league in arrests" since '12, ranging from "DUIs to McDonald’s arrest on Sunday morning." The team "appears willing to sign players with checkered pasts." While the arrests "draw a lot of attention, the success stories do not" (SFGATE.com, 9/1).
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