NFL Commissioner details sweeping domestic violence initative worth commending

In July, a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, Ray Rice, was suspended for two games after striking his then fiancée. With many believing that the punishment was not severe enough, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell received much criticism.

In reaction, as well as in part because Goodell  “was affected more by people closer to him, including some owners,” the commissioner recently sent out a letter to all team owners regarding the domestic violence initiative under the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The news was reported by ESPNW on Thursday.

While Rice may have received a two game suspension for his conduct, which ESPNW notes is “less than the suspensions given for most other infractions, such as substance abuse, steroid use or DUI offenses[,]” a different punishment is now in place.

If a player were to commit an offense, with all players starting with a “clean slate,” he would face a six-game suspension. A second suspense would involve a lifetime ban from the league.

It is worth noting though that such exceptions apply, with added emphasis:

A six-game suspension would be without pay and the length of the penalty could increase in these cases: an employee was involved in a prior incident before joining the NFL; 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-time offender may petition for reinstatement after one year but there is no assurance the petition would be granted, the letter said.

Not only is it a commendable move that the NFL is taking an active role in doing their part when it comes to fighting domestic violence, but that they would recognize the special protection deserved for pregnant women and for children, whether they be inside or outside of the womb.

All women deserve to be protected against an abusive partner. Pregnant women may be especially vulnerable and in need of protection though. And of course, let’s not forget that there is another victim when a pregnant woman is harmed.

A mere three days after ESPNW reported on the initiative, news broke that defensive end for the 49ers, Ray McDonald, has been arrested for domestic violence. The alleged victim, his fiancée, is pregnant.

Many news sources reporting on the story have included a statement regarding the 49ers head coach  and his attitude towards domestic violence:

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, according to former 49ers player Donte Whitner, one “said that we can do anything in the world and we can come and talk to him and he’ll forgive us except put our hands on women. If you put your hand on a woman then you’re done in his book.”

While domestic violence is never acceptable, McDonald should have especially known better playing on a team with such a coach.

Unfortunately, McDonald’s fiancée is not the only pregnant woman to suffer domestic abuse. An article from BabyCenter mentions that over 300,000 pregnant women experience domestic abuse each year in the United States. The article also says:

Can pregnancy reform a physically abusive partner?

It’s unlikely. Experts say that pregnancy is more likely to have the opposite effect on an abusive partner. One in 6 abused women reports that her partner first abused her during pregnancy, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, at least 4 to 8 percent of pregnant women report suffering abuse during pregnancy.

Even if your partner seems to react positively to the news that you’re pregnant, there’s no guarantee that he won’t turn violent again at some point. If a man strikes his partner once, he’s likely to do so again. Pregnancy can cause stress in any relationship, and it’s a common trigger of domestic violence.

An article from also details the immediate harmful physical effects of abuse on the pregnant woman and her child.

Immediate effects on the pregnancy can include:

Domestic violence is an all too common and all too tragic and inexcusable act committed against partners who never deserve such treatment. However the NFL may have acted in the past, the league and commissioner Goodell certainly deserve recognition for doing their part to protect women and their children.

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