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NFL Owners OK Stiffer Penalties For Domestic Violence, Other Crimes


The National Football League's personal conduct policy is getting a facelift. Owners of the league's 32 teams voted unanimously yesterday to revise that conduct policy, adding among other things stronger penalties for domestic violence. The changes come after the NFL was criticized for its handling of alleged off-field violence involving some of its highest-profile players. NPR's Nathan Rott reports.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the owners' decision saying that the revisions are a positive for everyone associated with the NFL.


ROGER GOODELL: The policy is comprehensive. It is strong. It is tough.

ROTT: And it is fairly hard to read. So we'll spare you the trouble by hitting the highlights, starting with a little help from Goodell.


GOODELL: It applies to everyone in the NFL - owners, coaches, league staff, team employees and players.

ROTT: It also expands the list of prohibited activities for all of those people to include, among other things, domestic abuse, sex offenses and illegal possession of guns. Under the new policy, a violation involving assault or domestic or sexual violence gets a baseline suspension of six games without pay, but can also result in banishment from the league. And an actual conviction is no longer necessary for league discipline. The policy also greatly reduces Goodell's power and role in disciplining, something that many called for after he initially suspended former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice just two games for punching his then fiancee. For comparison, a player who tested positive for a banned substance faced a four-game suspension. Goodell is not entirely out of the disciplining business, though. Under the new policy he still controls the appeals process.

GEORGE ATALLAH: Which as far as the players is concerned, is unacceptable.

ROTT: George Atallah is with the NFL Players Association, the union representing the league's players. He says that Goodell has forfeited the right to be that arbiter because of his actions in recent years with Rice and other incidents. Atallah says that doesn't necessarily mean the union will seek to block the new revisions, something they could potentially do. But he does say they're reviewing all of the policies, and...

ATALLAH: We believe that if there are any violations of our collective bargaining agreement, we have remedies to be able to pursue, and we'll pursue those very quickly.

ROTT: Atallah says that's not to protect or defend players from discipline, but given everything else that's happened in the last few months, they just want to make sure that any changes are done fairly and with transparency. Nathan Rott, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.
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