If there’s a right time to take a stand on domestic violence and sexual assault, it’s now. Colleges are changing policies, survivors are speaking up and the NFL has finally imposed a new set of rules regarding domestic violence and assault.
Last Thursday NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted he had mishandled the case in which Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was accused of assaulting his fiancee. Mr. Rice was let off the hook in July when the league suspended him for only two games.
After that, the NFL faced an uproar from not only advocacy groups but also fans who wanted harsher punishment. Mr. Goodell responded last week with a promise to take a tougher stance on future infractions. He said that any NFL employee — not just a player — who engages in assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault with physical force will be suspended. In the case of players, the suspension will be without pay for six games after the first offense. For a second offense, the employee will face expulsion from the league for at least one year.
Mr. Goodell issued a statement saying that his disciplinary decision in the Rice case “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.”
If colleges around the country, both large and small, can step up and impose stricter rules regarding sexual assault and violence, a league with as much clout as the NFL surely can — and must. Many children idolize pro athletes. High school football players dream of making the NFL. It’s only right that league employees set a good example, on and off the field.
Mr. Goodell should be applauded for his decision to treat domestic abuse seriously. His tough approach deserves to be emulated across the professional sports world.