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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, admitting he wasn't doing enough to crack down on violence against women, made a strong move to change that.
In a letter sent to owners, Goodell announced future violations of the personal-conduct policy related to domestic violence or sexual assault by NFL personnel will result in a six-game suspension for a first offense and a ban of at least a year for a second.
Goodell drew harsh criticism when he announced last month that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice would be suspended for two games for striking Janay Palmer, now his wife, at a New Jersey casino and being caught on camera dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator. Rice has been accepted into a pretrial intervention program.
"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," Goodell wrote in the letter, which was obtained Thursday by USA TODAY Sports.
"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."
Neither the NHL nor Major League Baseball has specific penalties for domestic abuse or sexual assault. The NBA has a minimum 10-game suspension for anyone convicted of what it terms a violent felony and has punished players charged or convicted of lesser offenses when they've involved domestic abuse.
"The trickledown effect will be huge," said Katherine Redmond, founder of the Denver-based National Coalition Against Violent Athletes. "It takes a bold step, and that's what it is."