NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has announced a new policy on domestic violence and sexual assault:
A six-game suspension would be without pay and the length of the penalty could increase in these cases: an employee was involved in a prior incident before joining the NFL; violence involving a weapon; choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman; or in the presence of a child. A second-time offender may petition for reinstatement after one year but there is no assurance the petition would be granted, the letter said.
A league source told ESPN's Andrew Brandt that discipline would be triggered by adjudication of a player's case, such as a conviction or plea agreement. The policy is not retroactive, meaning all personnel have a clean slate, a league source told ESPN's Mark Dominik. If a player commits a crime while in college or high school and then has a first offense while in the NFL, the player could be subject to a suspension harsher than six games.
The policy applies to all NFL personnel, not just players. The six-game minimum suspension seems to apply to all forms of assault and physical violence, not just in a domestic or sexual context. Counseling will be offered to all personnel and their families, with an attempt to identify people who are "at risk" of committing domestic violence, with increased punishment for those who decline such services and go on to commit abuse.
The NFL Players Association was consulted, but the Personal Conduct Policy lies outside the NFL collective bargaining agreement, so this change is being imposed unilaterally. The NFLPA issued a statement that it will work to ensure that, just like any other disciplinary matter, it will make sure that due process is followed in handing out punishments. That is, of course, the proper role of a union.
There still seems to be some confusion. One reporter has a source saying that "discipline would be triggered by adjudication of a player's case, such as a conviction or plea agreement", but another reporter seems to have a source claiming that "To be counted as an 'offense,' a player would not necessarily have to be convicted in a court of law, but each incident will be judged on its own merits". Should the NFL's disciplinary process wait until after a trial, should it be triggered by an indictment or an arrest, or should a public accusation or a reported incident that doesn't end in arrest be enough to lead to a punishment?