The NFL faced heavy criticism last month for suspending Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice—who was videotaped dragging his wife out of an Atlantic City elevator after allegedly knocking her unconscious—only two games, a penalty smaller than some of the suspensions the league gives to players who smoke marijuana. At the time Rice was suspended, the league's rules did not specificy a set penalty for domestic violence incidents, and he was disciplined under the broader "personal conduct" policy. Today, league commissioner Roger Goodell has instituted rules that mandate a six-game suspension for domestic violence offenses, with second-time offenders banned from the league (with the possibility of reinstatement after one year). ESPN has posted a letter Goodell sent team owners:
At times...we fall short of our goals. We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. My disciplinary decision 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.
NFL players can be punished by the league for off-field incidents even if their behavior does not lead to a criminal conviction.