The NFL’s Uneven History Of Punishing Domestic Violence

August 29, 2014 - photo frame

The conveyor doors open and he drops her. She falls to her knees, and afterwards to a floor, though her feet forestall a doors from closing. The male is holding a woman’s purse as he tries to pierce her comatose physique out of a approach regulating his feet, though she won’t budge. He tries picking her adult again, though comatose bodies can be heavy, even for a 5-foot-8, 208-pound regulating behind in a National Football League. Then a video ends.

That video, display a issue of an rumpus between Ray Rice and his then-girlfriend (now wife), Janay Palmer, done a rounds this NFL offseason as if it were a Zapruder film. Prompted by a video and an arrest, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell dangling Rice, a star regulating behind for a Baltimore Ravens, for dual games, citing personal interviews with Rice and Palmer and a league’s personal control policy.

But a punishment felt incommensurate with a crime. “It’s a joke, and a bad one,” ESPN columnist Jane McManus wrote. How was it probable that Rice was given dual games, many exclaimed, when players had been suspended 6 games for intrigue on a exam for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and entire seasons for regularly smoking marijuana?

“We can’t usually make adult a discipline,” Goodell pronounced during a press discussion after arising Rice’s suspension. “It has to be unchanging with other cases and it was unchanging with other cases.”

On Thursday, Goodell announced a new fortify policy. In a minute to all 32 organisation owners performed by ESPN, Goodell wrote that a joining fell brief in a diagnosis of a Rice case. “Effective immediately, violations of a Personal Conduct Policy per assault, battery, domestic attack or passionate attack that engage earthy force will be theme to a cessation though compensate of 6 games for a initial offense, with care given to mitigating factors, as good as a longer cessation when resources warrant.” (This will not impact Rice’s stream suspension.) A second offense will outcome in a anathema from a league, with a event to request for reinstatement after one year.

A six-game suspension, according to information collected by FiveThirtyEight, would be 4 times what a normal cessation has been for domestic attack and an unprecedented effect for a first offense of any kind. The anathema from a joining after a repeat offense would be a harshest punishment for all second-time offenders.

Following a Rice incident, we went looking for each NFL suspension1 released in a league’s 94-year history. we wanted to know how violations like Rice’s, a ones separate to steroid or piece abuse, were determined. If domestic abuse fitting dual games, what kinds of control violations fitting five games? Eight games? An entire season? we insincere that someone — if not a ruling physique itself — contingency keep lane of each actor suspended, given he was suspended, and a length of a suspension. we was wrong.

When we contacted a NFL, a spokeswoman, Darlene Capiro, responded by email, “We do not have a extensive list.” Several of my colleagues during ESPN and Grantland who news on a NFL were unknowingly of any finish information set. The ESPN Stats Information organisation also did not have this information in a entirety, usually comparison incidents. A orator for a NFL Players Association, George Atallah, said a kinship had during slightest some of a information though did not yield it after steady requests.

And so we cobbled it together myself, with a assistance of a San Diego Union-Tribune’s NFL arrests database, a Wikipedia list dating behind to 1947, and a Spotrac cessation tracker.2 we found 263 incidents in that process, and accurate suspensions regulating news reports,3 while creation note of a reason for a cessation and a series of games a actor eventually missed.4 The information isn’t perfect, though it’s a good start.

Once I’d categorized a offenses and a analogous games missed, we had tough justification of what many already suspected: The NFL’s punishment of personal control violations has been unsuitable and on normal reduction oppressive than a punishment of drug offenses.


Note that a tallest peaks start in a dual charts on PEDs; some-more than 90 percent of first-time offenders accept a cessation of 4 games and 100 percent of repeat offenders accept a cessation of 8 games. There’s small doubt about a series of games a actor will be forced to skip for regulating steroids given a length of a cessation is privately summarized in joining policy.

Substance abuse violations are not as consistently punished as PED violations, though 68 percent of first-time offenders accept 4 games and roughly 75 percent of second-time offenders accept one year, per joining policy.5

Contrast that with a larger movement in a length of suspensions for personal control violations. This catchall difficulty includes all from murder to illegal ingame attack to annoying a joining on amicable media.

Since 2002 (the initial instance we could find), 38 percent of control violators perceived a one-game suspension. In this organisation are Larry Johnson, who spit his splash in a woman’s face, and Ricky Manning, Jr., who assaulted a male outward a Denny’s restaurant. Another 19 percent of players perceived dual games, among them Jeremy Bridges, who pointed a gun during a stripper. Marshawn Lynch was among a 21 percent of players to accept a three-game cessation — after he was arrested for carrying a gun in his car. Even fewer players — 13 percent — perceived 4 games, and their cases ranged from sexual assault to mixed DUI arrests. The longest cessation went to Adam “Pacman” Jones, who was dangling 20 games (the whole 2007 deteriorate and a initial 4 games of 2008) for numerous arrests and altercations with a police.

The disproportion in a NFL’s diagnosis of drug and control violations is a outcome of a league’s common negotiate agreement. The CBA does not discuss a Personal Conduct Policy, though does categorically impute to a Policy and Program For Substances of Abuse. The craziness is transparent even when we review a dual documents. The one covering drugs is 32 pages. The other, three.

The league’s new regulations are meant to overpass that gap. For years, there has been transparent superintendence on how to hoop drug offenses though no medication for violent, off-field offenses. Now there will be, and if a actor commits a second act of violence, it “will outcome in expulsion from a NFL.” An appeals routine is available, though a actor contingency wait a year.

There were usually 4 prior lifetime bans in my database — 3 were for steady piece abuse, one was for gambling.6 For comparison, Donte Stallworth, who pleaded guilty to DUI killing in 2009, was out of a joining for a year.

The prior craziness in punishment of domestic attack became transparent when we looked during a 53 personal control violations that a joining has released given 2002. The normal series of games dangling for all personal control violations was 3.0. For a 15 cases of domestic attack that had been punished underneath a old, nonspecific guidelines, a normal series of games dangling was 1.5.


The baseline cessation is now 6 games, presumption Goodell doesn’t revoke it given of “mitigating factors.” That means any domestic attack cessation going brazen will double a prior record for any domestic attack punishment. The NFL will now take it some-more severely when a actor beats a lady than when he’s held smoking a joint.

The full information set is in a searchable list below. It’s as finish as possible, though there might be suspensions we missed. If we know of one, please contention it.

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