After being pilloried for the minor punishment meted out to Ravens RB Ray Rice, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (above) is now pledging a 6 month ban for “violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force.” While Goodell works overtime to change the narrative — he’s not enabling wife beaters, he’s stopping ‘em! —- The Nation’s ever skeptical Dave Zirin declares, “taking moral guidance from the NFL is like being lectured about diplomacy by Benjamin Netanyahu.”
This is a commissioner who talks on and on about his concern for the health and safety of players while trying to extend the season to 18 games. This is a commissioner who has pledged to penalize players for using on-field slurs yet defends the name of one of his billion dollar brands, a dictionary-defined slur. This is a commissioner who talks about how much the NFL cares about communities while demanding hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for billionaires while our schools and hospitals remain in disrepair. This is a commissioner desperate to increase his marketshare among women football fans and who believes that coming down hard on domestic violence is the way to do it.
As for the plan itself, the best part, as Jessica Luther has written, is that the NFL has pledged to spend much more time and energy at rookie and player orientations to actually discuss domestic violence. This is important. I’ve been to rookie orientation sessions and when women are discussed, if discussed at all, they are talked about as people who players should look at as predators trying to get pregnant or always ready to falsely accuse players of sexual assault. The discussions are how to avoid such situations. Any efforts to discuss women with young players as actual human beings should be welcomed. Luther talks about other initiatives aimed at education and awareness which hopefully will actually be implemented.
But the section of the new conduct policy that is far more problematic is what we could call the carceral part. Roger Goodell has decided to place the passing of judgment of domestic violence completely under his own power as Commissioner without any input from the NFL Players Association. It now resides beneath the umbrella of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. That means Goodell has total control as judge, jury and executioner over punishment on the basis of his assessment of what happened in a family’s personal life.