Sixteen female senators from both parties called on the National Football League Thursday to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on domestic violence.
The senators said they were “shocked and disgusted” by a video showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee and knocking her unconscious.
“Tragically, this is not the only case of an NFL player allegedly assaulting a woman even within the last year,” the senators wrote in a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The senators said they were deeply concerned that a new policy Goodell announced last month would let a player commit a violent act and return to the field after a six-game suspension.
“If you violently assault a woman, you shouldn’t get a second chance to play football in the NFL,” the letter said.
Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California put the letter together. It’s signed by 14 Democrats and two Republicans. Four other female senators — two Democrats and two Republicans — did not sign the letter, which Boxer’s office said was put together quickly after the Rice video was released earlier this week.
Goodell, who initially suspended Rice for two games for the February incident, said last month that he “didn’t get it right” with Rice. The league set up new penalties for domestic violence: a six-game suspension for a first offense, at least a year for a second.
The Ravens released Rice on Monday and the NFL suspended him indefinitely after the website TMZ released video of the incident, which occurred in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino. The video shows Rice punching fiancee Janay Palmer, who is now his wife, and knocking her unconscious. The video is significantly more graphic than an initial video released by TMZ in July that showed Rice dragging Palmer from the elevator.
Goodell has insisted the league didn’t see the violent images until this week. After The Associated Press reported that a law enforcement official said he had sent a video of Rice punching Palmer to NFL executive five months ago, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said news reports suggested a “burgeoning, insurmountable credibility gap” regarding statements by Goodell.
“If these reports are true, Commissioner Goodell must go, for the good of the NFL and its fans,” Blumenthal said late Wednesday. “The current leadership of the NFL cannot be trusted to fairly, genuinely implement policies that address domestic violence.”
Earlier, 12 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee sent Goodell a letter calling for greater transparency from the NFL. Separately, Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada said Goodell had not acted swiftly enough to punish Rice.