ALBANY, N.Y. – High school and college players could be impacted by new domestic violence penalties initiated by the National Football League before they become professional athletes.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Thursday that athletes accused of domestic violence could be suspended for six weeks on a first offense and at least a year for a second. The initiative is partly in response to criticism for the way the league disciplined Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice after he assaulted his then-fiancée in February.
“I think the commissioner had egg on his face with the Ray Rice situation,” Ray Brownell said. “Felt like it didn’t go far enough in that case.”
Rice was suspended for two games after a video showed the athlete assaulting his then-fiancée. Many felt the penalty wasn’t enough.
“And I think that today’s new policy indicates that maybe he feels like he didn’t go far enough,” Brownell said.
Brownell has been an agent for professional football players for nearly a decade. His office has been speaking with clients to make sure they fully understand the new rule following Goodell’s announcement.
“So we’re talking to our athletes right now saying, ‘You need to understand this,’ and we’re explaining it to them and saying, ‘There is no room for error,” he said.
The new personal conduct policy mandates the first-time offense is punished with a six-game suspension without pay. The second would result in a life-time ban from the NFL.
“Very unforgiving, which is the way it should be, because domestic violence is a very serious problem in the country,” Brownell said.
The new policy sets a new standard in the NFL as it holds any NFL personnel accountable to their actions off the field.
“Hopefully, this will cause them to think before committing an act of that sort,” Brownell continued.
The new policy also sends a message to high school and college athletes that type of behavior could ruin their future.
“I do think that will serve as a very serious wake up call to student athletes who want to be professional players,” Brownell said.
The NFL said if a player has a history of violence in college or high school, the first punishment could be stricter than a six-game suspension.
“There are ramifications,” Brownell explained. “Very strong ones as they enter the NFL. I do think that it will serve as a deterrent.”
The policy applies to incidents involving physical and not just domestic violence. It also applies to all NFL personnel; not just players. The NFL is also going to identify at-risk players and offer them counseling.