What Is The NFL Domestic Violence Policy?

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated May 13, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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Over the last 15 years, the NFL’s domestic violence policy, which is part of the Personal Conduct Policy, has undergone some significant changes. If the players do something to damage the league’s reputation, then they are often suspended for a few games, and sometimes their contracts are terminated. In this article, we will dive into the NFL’s domestic violence policy and how it has evolved over the years.

History of the NFL’s Domestic Violence Policy

The NFL has always had a conduct policy of some effect, but its conduct policy strengthened in 2007. After a few players performed some unethical actions off the field, the NFL decided to make its policy stricter to uphold the league’s reputation.

By 2007, the Internet was mainstream. Smartphones were emerging, and the actions of many players were under scrutiny. Previously, a player might have been able to get away with many things because the public couldn’t find out about it. With new technology, word travels much faster. The NFL must work harder to uphold its reputation, which includes punishing anyone who breaks its code of conduct.

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In 2014, Ray Rice was charged with domestic violence toward his then-fiancée. After a night of drinking at a casino, there was an altercation caught on video with evidence of Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée in an elevator.

The NFL suspended him for two games, and much of the public was outraged. In response, the league implemented its new Personal Conduct Policy. Rice was punished again under the new policy, but the punishment was successfully appealed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, given that he was being punished twice for the same crime. However, his team, the Baltimore Ravens, released him, and he hasn’t played in the NFL since.

The 2014 domestic violence policy extended the punishment for domestic violence to six games. According to current policy, a subsequent incident would result in a permanent ban from the league.

However, a player who has been banned can request reinstatement after one year, but, according to the NFL’s most current policy from 2018, “there is no presumption or assurance that the petition will be granted.”

The Personal Conduct Policy contains a number of prohibited behaviors, the following of which are related to violence: 

  • “Actual or threatened physical violence against another person, including dating violence, domestic violence, child abuse, and other forms of family violence
  • Assault and/or battery, including sexual assault or other sex offenses
  • Violent or threatening behavior toward another employee or a third party in any workplace setting
  • Stalking, harassment, or similar forms of intimidation”

The NFL’s domestic violence policy also says it will provide assistance where appropriate to victims of domestic violence. This includes counseling, social services, medical attention, and child services. Also, the league will provide a clinical evaluation, counseling, and education for the players involved in any such incidents.  

Concerns about the NFL’s Domestic Violence Policy

To some people, the NFL’s domestic violence policy may seem unjust, given that people in other lines of work may receive greater punishment for acts of domestic violence. This discrepancy may be due to a number of reasons, such as the power and influence of the players. They tend to bring in a lot of revenue for their teams, and some have a vital influence on their team’s success. However, there may also be some societal reasons for policy inconsistencies, including attitudes about domestic violence.

Fans forgive and forget

The public may demonstrate outrage when news of domestic violence makes national headlines, but many people continue to support the perpetrator.  After a season, if a player claims he regrets his actions and has changed, most of the public may forgive him or forget about the incident altogether. While this mentality may have changed somewhat in recent years with stronger punishments, many people still move on from cases of domestic violence committed by athletes. As long as they play well, many fans don’t take much interest in what professional athletes do in their personal life. 

What can be done?

The NFL has taken steps to implement new policies, but the public may also be able to play a role in reducing domestic violence. For example, the public can advocate for victims of domestic violence and speak out when a player, coach, or team staff member commits an act of domestic violence. For example, if you don't want a player on your favorite team because they have been found guilty of domestic violence, then you can make your voice heard. Public pressure can sometimes lead to changes in policy that create greater awareness of domestic violence and its effects on survivors.

Seeking help for domestic violence

If you’re a survivor of any type of domestic violence, *know that you are not alone. Domestic violence does not have to be physical. It can be anything that causes physical, emotional, psychological, or financial harm. 

If you’ve experienced or even witnessed domestic violence of any kind, it may help to speak with a licensed counselor who has experience helping survivors of domestic violence. If you don’t feel comfortable going to a therapist’s office, you might benefit from online therapy. With online therapy, you can communicate with a therapist from home or any safe space where you have an internet connection. Sessions can take place by video chat, live chat, or just audio if you feel more comfortable.

Online therapy has been proven to be effective in helping with many mental health concerns that can be related to domestic violence, including anxiety and depression. Some studies have found online therapy to be just as effective as in-person therapy in many situations.

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Through the Personal Conduct Policy of 2014, the NFL has taken steps to implement harsher punishments for domestic violence committed by players. Despite these efforts, more can be done to curb domestic violence, and the public may be able to play a key role by speaking up in the face of domestic violence. 

If you are experiencing domestic violence, whether verbal, physical, or psychological, you are not alone, and help is available, both in person and online. With BetterHelp, you can choose an online therapist who has experience helping survivors of domestic violence. Take the first step toward freedom from domestic violence and reach out to BetterHelp today.

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