NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has admitted he was wrong on the Ray Rice domestic violence discipline, a stance that has drawn praise from onlookers who previously were livid with Rice's two-game suspension.
That's the good news. The tricky aftermath is now how the steeper penalties might apply to existing cases.
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Hardy stands to be punished for his July conviction after assaulting his ex-girlfriend, and his jury trial on appeal will be heard in November (or later). Goodell's new stance had no mention of existing cases, though, so it's unclear whether this new grade of punishment would apply — especially with the legal process incomplete.
A vague email from an NFL spokesman to the Charlotte Observer stated that “each case will be addressed individually on its merits.”
Goodell's letter to NFL owners, which found its way into several media outlets' hands on Thursday, set forth the new discipline scheme: Players who violate the personal conduct policy on assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault will be suspended without pay for six games on first offense, and they'll face an indefinite ban for a second.
In the letter, Goodell wrote:
“We will address these issues fairly and thoughtfully, respecting the rights of all involved and giving proper deference to law enforcement and the courts."
“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.
“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.”
This is a big step that should be applauded. Can anyone remember such a mea culpa from Goodell in his reign as commissioner? If so, please remind us — few, if any, come to mind, especially any of this significance.
But spinning it forward, how might Goodell handle Hardy, and is he "grandfathered" in on the Rice scale? Some might argue that Rice was somewhat of an outlier anyway, that his punishment didn't come close to measuring up to other indiscretions previously. So Rice might not be any kind of standard.
You'd think Goodell would take a fresh look at Hardy. Might the player be upset at a stiffer penalty? You bet, and his team couldn't be thrilled with that idea, either. But this is bigger than Hardy and the Panthers. This is about stanching the bloodletting on what was a singular but powerful case with Rice that easily could have set the NFL back.
We'll keep an eye on how Goodell approaches the Hardy case, and it might require more information that delays a decision until the offseason, especially if the trial gets pushed back.
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