The NFL is revising its conduct policy and completing mandatory training for coaches, owners and players over the next two weeks on preventing domestic violence and child and sexual abuse, said Executive Vice President Troy Vincent, who also described growing up in a household where his mother was beaten.
"The vast majority of our players are terrific husbands, fathers and men," Vincent said, often struggling to hold back tears. "The players know that standards and integrity are not labor issues or management issues — they are issues that concern everyone in our game."
"The problem of domestic violence is not a problem unique to the NFL," said committee Chairman Sen.
Still, the most glaring example was the two-game suspension initially given to Baltimore Ravens running back
Following the Rice case and the yearlong suspension of
Last week, an arbitrator found that that Rice was punished twice for the same offense. The league agreed to overturn his suspension.
Disciplinary hearings should be a process negotiated with the players union, said Teri Patterson of the NFL Players Assn. To that end, she said, the union is establishing a commission to advise league officials on domestic violence prevention. Its members include retired player Steve Stenstrom and former White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler.
"Unfortunately, we've seen many instances of discipline implemented unilaterally by the NFL," Patterson said. "The process is often mismanaged and not able to withstand outside review."
Lawmakers said they were concerned that union officials were putting collective bargaining and other labor issues before the safety of players' families.
"I'm trying to get to the point as to whether or not the association is saying it's OK to knock out a woman with one punch on Wednesday and still suit up for a game on Sunday," Sen.
"What we think is inappropriate is inconsistent and unfair handling" of disciplinary cases, Patterson replied.
League executives and union representatives from other sports also reiterated their commitment to pushing back against domestic violence among their players, including in upcoming collective bargaining.
Major League Baseball executive and former Yankees Manager
"We recognize the clear public expectation for the professional sports leagues to be leaders in addressing this social ill," Torre said.
Representatives from the
Although leagues are privately run, they get some legal protections and tax benefits. The NFL, for example, is exempt from antitrust law and has tax-exempt status as a nonprofit trade organization.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reiterated his objection to the tax exemptions during the hearing. He is supporting legislation that would strip the NFL of its tax benefits and argued that the league could be contributing more money to domestic violence prevention.
"I have to justify to my constituents why the NFL, this multibillion-dollar organization, has tax-exempt status," he said.