The NFL took an important step forward on Thursday, enacting a discipline policy that is significantly stiffer for incidents of domestic violence. In a letter to the 32 owners, Roger Goodell announced that a first domestic violence offense will net a 6-game suspension, and a second offense will net a life-time ban from the league.
Of course, it is important to note that it is only significantly stiffer because it was a joke before with Ray Rice's suspension. The commissioner acknowledged in the letter that he made a mistake, and basically is responding to the public outcry.
Adam Schefter tweeted out the full letter. Here is the portion related to punishment for assault, battery, domestic violence, and sexual assault.
Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant. Among the circumstances that would merit a more severe penalty would be a prior incident before joining the NFL, or violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child. A second offense will result in banishment from the NFL; while an individual may petition for reinstatement after one year, there will be no presumption or assurance that the petition will be granted. These disciplinary standards will apply to all NFL personnel.
We don't know specifically what will be required before the discipline is imposed. It is based on the personal conduct policy, so I imagine it would require disposition of a legal case (either a plea deal or completion of trial).
And of course, the union might have a thing or two to say about this. They're in a tough position. They have been fighting the personal conduct policy for some time now. If they push back on this, they're in a no-win situation from a PR standpoint. The personal conduct policy provides Goodell with a whole lot of power to provide often inconsistent rulings. We'll see what happens the first time we see a violation of this policy.
In terms of punishing cowards that attack women, it is a step forward. I don't think 6 games for a first offense is nearly enough, but the NFL will get the positive PR they so love.