McDonald incident gives Goodell, NFL second chance to tackle domestic abuse

Ray Rice Ruling Highlights The NFL's Suspension Problem

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The National Football League and domestic violence have been mentioned in the same breath one too many times for commissioner Roger Goodell's liking. After a lenient penalty was levied against Ravens running back Ray Rice, the public seemed to have finally had enough of Goodell turning the other cheek in regards to domestic issues.

The backlash from the public and those in the league has been profound and almost unanimous -- enough is enough.

This backlash caused Goodell to implement a new domestic violence policy, under which players or members of NFL organizations found guilty of domestic violence will face a six-game suspension after a first offense and up to a one-year suspension on the second offense. This new domestic violence policy is essentially Goodell's recognition of his failure in handling the Rice situation and an attempt to fix it.

Goodell sent a letter to all NFL teams on Aug. 28, 2014 to announce the steeper penalties. It read, in part:

"At times, however, and despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals. We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence.

"We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place.

"My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families.

"I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will."

Commissioner Goodell was right about a few things in his statement. This was an important opportunity for the league to announce its stance on these issues and they missed it -- what's done in the Ray Rice case is done. That story will always end with a two-game suspension, a slap on the wrist.

This is an attempt to change the storyline moving forward, but what about the injustice that has already occurred? Does he get a pass because they got it wrong the first time?

If the NFL really was serious about making a statement, they would've made Rice pay the new penalty and, in doing so, sent a message that they are not only serious about future offenses, but all offenses.

What does this say to the millions of young men who look up to players all over the league and then see those names in connection with domestic violence in the media? What about the women who make up half of the viewership?

According to Safe Horizon, a nonprofit organization for domestic violence awareness and prevention, one in four women will experience domestic violence at some point in their life. Four million women and three million men will be physically assaulted or raped by their partners this year.

These statistics are a small glance at a grave situation which requires action from all of us, starting from the top. National institutions like the NFL have a responsibility to shape the conversation. So though the Rice situation and those before it weren't handled with the severity they obviously require, we can hope that these new penalties will help shape the conversation moving forward.

Since the new penalties were announced, several NFL players have been in the news for domestic violence issues -- most notably perhaps is 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald. McDonald was arrested and charged with felony domestic violence after an incident at his 30th birthday party in which his pregnant fiancé was said to have 'visible' injuries.

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh came out and said he has zero tolerance for anyone who would abuse a woman, but noted that McDonald will play until the case plays out in 'due process.'

And, he just happens to be a key cog on Harbaugh's defense. So why worry about it anyway?

No more of this. No more wishy-washy, half decisions. No more slaps on the wrist, and no more large statements with little to no substance behind them.

It's time to take a stand against domestic violence in the National Football League and all across the country. It's time for Roger Goodell and the league to take this second opportunity and lead the charge.

Hopefully this new policy is the start of that.

Annie Moore is a junior at the University of Louisville majoring in Communications with a Sport Administration minor. She believes Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. Follow her on Twitter: @AnyMoreSports
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