SENATORS CALL ON NFL, BALTIMORE RAVENS TO IMPOSE STIFFER PENALTY ON RAY RICE, ENCOURAGE LEAGUE TO DEVELOP PROCEDURES TO HANDLE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) today wrote to National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to condemn the league’s lenient punishment of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. The senators urged the NFL to issue a stiffer penalty and, in a separate letter to Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, called on the team to do so if the NFL refuses. The senators also called on the Commissioner to develop procedures to ensure that allegations and evidence of domestic violence are addressed appropriately. Rice was given a two-game suspension for a domestic violence incident involving his then-fiancee.

“Mr. Rice’s suspension reflects a disturbingly lenient, even cavalier attitude towards violence against women,” the senators wrote. “We therefore urge you to take two steps immediately. First, reconsider and revise Mr. Rice’s suspension to more adequately reflect the seriousness of his offense. We are also writing to the Baltimore Ravens to request that they impose additional discipline under their own authority, but it is imperative that the NFL itself makes clear that this conduct is truly unacceptable.”

The full text of both letters is below:

Roger Goodell

Commissioner

National Football League

345 Park Avenue

New York, New York  10154

Dear Mr. Goodell:

We were dismayed to learn of the National Football League’s plainly inadequate remedy imposed on Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for hitting his then-fiancée hard enough to knock her unconscious and then dragging her out of an elevator.

The decision to suspend Mr. Rice for a mere two games sends the inescapable message that the NFL does not take domestic or intimate-partner violence with the seriousness they deserve. As has been widely pointed out, the NFL has imposed longer suspensions for offenses such as non-violent breaches of banned-substances policies and breaking NCAA rules by selling memorabilia. Both on its own and in comparison to these other cases, Mr. Rice’s suspension reflects a disturbingly lenient, even cavalier attitude towards violence against women.

We therefore urge you to take two steps immediately. First, reconsider and revise Mr. Rice’s suspension to more adequately reflect the seriousness of his offense. We are also writing to the Baltimore Ravens to request that they impose additional discipline under their own authority, but it is imperative that the NFL itself makes clear that this conduct is truly unacceptable.

Second, as it has done regarding drug offenses, the NFL must develop procedures to ensure that allegations and evidence of domestic violence are addressed appropriately. The pressing need for such procedures is clearly shown by a U-T San Diego study indicating that 21 of 32 NFL teams last year employed a player with a domestic violence or sexual assault charge on his record, as well as by Bureau of Justice statistics indicating that one in four women will face domestic violence during her lifetime. We note that the NFL’s “Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse” provides for a flat penalty of a four-game suspension (and up to a year’s suspension for repeated violations) for offenses that include “fail[ure] to cooperate with testing, treatment, evaluation or other requirements [or] a Positive Test.” Similarly standardized procedures and levels of discipline should be applied to incidents of domestic violence, which by many measures constitutes a far more serious offense.

Thank you for your prompt attention to these requests.

Sincerely,

Sen. Richard Blumenthal

Sen. Tammy Baldwin

Sen. Chris Murphy

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Ozzie Newsome

General Manager

Baltimore Ravens

1 Winning Drive

Owings Mills, Maryland  21117

Dear Mr. Newsome,

As we wrote to National Football League Commission Roger Goodell today, we are appalled by the imposition of a mere two-game suspension on Ray Rice for the disturbing acts of violence he committed against his then-fiancée. Both on its own and in relation to the longer suspensions the NFL has imposed for a variety of low-level, non-violent offenses, this suspension is plainly inadequate, and it leads to the inescapable conclusion that the NFL does not consider domestic violence to be a serious crime.

We have asked Commissioner Goodell to reconsider the length of Mr. Rice’s suspension and to develop policies for dealing with any similar incidents that occur in the future. Our firm hope is that the NFL will reconsider its response and send a clearer message that this sort of behavior is completely unacceptable. If the NFL fails to do so, however, we urge you to use your own authority to impose a longer suspension on Mr. Rice – one that clearly indicates that knocking a woman unconscious is a despicable act of violence that has no place in professional sports or, indeed, anywhere in civilized society.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this issue.

Sincerely,

Sen. Richard Blumenthal

Sen. Tammy Baldwin

Sen. Chris Murphy