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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Padanilam: NFL's words against domestic violence again proven empty

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They have no place in the NFL and are unacceptable in any way, under any circumstances. That has been and remains our policy.”

This is what Roger Goodell had to say in a letter sent to each NFL owner in August of 2014 about the changes to the NFL’s domestic violence policy that were incorporated that year. This response came weeks after Goodell drew much scrutiny for his handling of the case involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was seen on video knocking his fiancé unconscious in an elevator.

Just over two years later, those words seem emptier than ever.

Whether it be in Rice’s case or those of Greg Hardy and Josh Brown, the NFL has continually shown to the rest of the world that properly handling cases of domestic violence is not as important as Goodell pretends.

In 2014, the NFL instituted a six-game suspension for first-time offenders of its new domestic violence policy. But the league has yet to enforce that policy, using a clause that accounts for aggravating or mitigating circumstances to reduce the penalty in each of the cases it has handled so far.

Such was the case of Brown, who was the kicker for the New York Giants prior to his release Tuesday. The NFL claims it launched a thorough investigation into his wife's accusation of repeated domestic violence — over 20 such instances — and intimidation, and, at the conclusion of its investigation, it suspended Brown just one game.

Yet, weeks later, journals and emails written by Brown were made public — journals and emails in which Brown admits to being physically, emotionally and verbally abusive towards his wife. Now, these documents were in possession of the sheriff's office in King County in Washington, where Molly Brown’s accusations made against her husband originated. They had been in the department’s possession since May 2015, when Brown was arrested on a domestic violence charge.

These documents have existed since 2015, and a supposedly thorough investigation by the NFL claims that they were never made aware of the existence of these documents.

The fact is the NFL never truly investigated the accusations the way it should have. After blaming the King County Sheriff's Office for denying their requests to access the information, the sheriff himself, John Urquhart, says the NFL’s investigator never filed a public disclosure request for the documents, never went through the proper channels and never attempted to speak to him so he could give them an oral account of the evidence against Brown.

And this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Consider that the NFL failed to find the shocking video TMZ later obtained of Ray Rice striking his fiancé. Now it wants us to believe that it didn’t repeat its mistakes of the past, butcher its investigation and fail to obtain information that could’ve been obtained had the league done its due diligence.

And even worse, the NFL only seems to take these issues seriously once public perception builds to the point where it can’t do anything but reopen shoddy investigations and amend its punishments. It’s what happened in Rice’s case, and it’s what is currently happening in Brown’s.

Roger Goodell and the NFL need to start taking these issues seriously. It’s not about public perception. It’s about the acts themselves. Goodell acknowledges that they have “no place in the NFL,” but actions speak louder than words.

And it’s about time the NFL’s actions start matching those words when it comes to domestic violence.