What Is The NFL Domestic Violence Policy?

Updated January 26, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

When it comes to any job, there are conduct rules you must follow. You can't just walk around and do anything that can hurt the company's public image. The NFL has similar conduct policies. With so many eyes on them, if their players do something to damage the company's reputation, then they are punished. Sometimes their contracts are terminated. Other times, they are suspended for a few games. In this article, we will dive into one such policy, which is their domestic violence policy. What is it? When did they put it into effect? Does it work? 


The NFL always had a conduct policy of some effect, but their conduct policy strengthened in 2007. After a few players performed some unethical actions outside of the field, the NFL decided to make their policy stricter to uphold the company's reputation.

By 2007, the Internet was now mainstream. Smartphones were emerging. The actions of many players were under scrutiny. Back in the day, a player might be able to get away with many things because the public not find out about it, so the NFL sometimes turn a blind eye. With today’s technology, word travels much faster. The NFL must work harder to uphold their reputation, which includes punishing anyone who breaks their code of conduct.

NFL Domestic Policy

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In 2014, player Ray Rice was charged with domestic violence towards 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 fiancéein an elevator.

The NFL suspended him for just two games, and much of the public was outraged. At this point in time, several players had gotten off with what seemed like a slap on the wrist for crimes that would have landed an ordinary person in prison. For example, Michael Vick, who ran a dogfighting ring, was suspended from 2007-2009. Imagine if an ordinary person had that kind of ring. They would never have employment again.

The NFL also treated domestic violence less seriously than other punishments. Domestic violence punishments were given a pass, while other policies were more consistently punished. For instance, those who had drugs on them, such as steroids, were punished more harshly and consistently.

New domestic violence policy extended the punishment to six games. If there were another incident, there would be a lifetime ban.

The policy also says it will provide counseling for those who have been affected by the violence, including the player. Their goal seems to be to fix any violence issues they may have for them not to repeat the incident.

Some of this may sound a bit odd to outsiders. Why are players who engage in domestic violence given a second chance, and why are they jonly suspended for a few games? 

Why Is The NFL Policy So Inconsistent With “Real Life?”

Seeing people get slaps on the wrist for awful crimes seems unfair for ordinary people. At your job, you can get terminated for being late, slipping your tongue, saying the wrong words on Facebook, and other reasons that seem petty. Meanwhile, an NFL player beats their wife, and they are just suspended. While we cannot look into the heads of the people who run the NFL, we imagine it has to do with a few things.


NFL players are paid a lot. There has always been a debate how sports players are overpaid while people who have jobs that serve the country better are underpaid. But let's face it: an audience talks. Millions of people watch these games, and the players have become celebrities. If the NFL fired some of these players, they have the money to fight it in court, and it can get messy. Suspending the players is perhaps the best compromise.


The player may be a celebrity. They have a following, product deals, their line of merchandise, and so on. For the NFL, getting rid of all of that may be a loss of revenue, and they do not want to make someone else famous when they already have fame.


If a player is talented, it can be messy firing them. The player may be the one carrying the games, and without them, searching for a worthy replacement can be costly, damage a team's win streak, and it may take a while. As you may have observed, a more talented player is often going to get a lesser punishment as a result.

People Forget And Forgive

America is a country of episodic outrage. We are all disappointed in a player if they do something wrong, but few of us will drop all support for them. After a season, if a player claims he has cleaned up his act, most of the public may forgive him, or forget about the incident altogether. While this has changed a bit due to the recent climate, many people still don't care too much. As long as they put on a game, many fans don’t care what they do in their personal life.

It's All About The PR

The NFL does not want to get rid of their talented players, and they can overlook many of the problematic actions players do. Their players are rich and play in a game that can be quite aggressive, so it’s not always surprising that some of them may take part in questionable actions in their personal lives. Some say that the NFL does not care what the players do, but does care when it makes the news. 

The NFL has to walk the line between serving the public's outcries and keeping their players happy. Some may be able to see both sides to this, while others will say that the NFL should make examples out of people who engage in domestic violence. They can take their aggression out on the games, and they shouldn't take it out on their wives or girlfriends.

What Can Be Done?

We are a country of incremental change. The NFL has taken steps to implement new policies, and while they may not follow them to a T, it's still one small step. The main thing that can be done is continue to voice your opinions. If you don't want a player on the team because they have been charged with domestic violence, then make your voice heard. Public pressure is how most companies change, and the NFL is no exception to this rule. They want to make money, and if the public isn't supporting them, their revenue will drop.

Athletes And Violence

Domestic violence is a problem not only in the NFL, but also in other types of sports. It's more noticeable in the NFL because of its popularity. In the US, the public is most likely going to care less about the personal lives of soccer players because soccer is not as popular as the NFL.

People wonder why athletes are more prone to violence. It's argued that it's because of the nature of these games. It requires a lot of testosterone to perform, and the violence in those games can stimulate one's need for violence outside the field.

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This isn't the take blame away from the player; there are plenty of athletes who don't engage in violence outside the games. It's just one of the factors that may contribute. In the end, it's still the fault of the player if they engage in violence.

It should also be noted that people who have higher incomes tend to have fewer incidents of domestic violence. Perhaps it's because they have money and power, or it could be because they are less stressed due to their money. However, athletes have a higher-than-average rate of domestic violence compared to other people who make the same amount of money as they do.

It's an interesting phenomenon for sure. Perhaps someday we can figure out how to have players who can put on an intense game and not be more violent in their personal lives.

In conclusion, the NFL does have a violence problem, and it will, unfortunately, take a while before there is a zero-tolerance policy. Dropping a famous player because of one domestic violence incident is difficult due to the NFL and the NFL Players Association CBA.

Seek Help!

Domestic abuse does not have to be physical. It can be anything that causes physical, emotional, psychological, or financial harm by the person you’re in a relationship with. If you’re a survivor of domestic abuse, or are trying to figure out how to get out of a relationship that has domestic violence, you need to seek help. 

If you or someone you know is or may be experiencing abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, available 24/7, at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. Live chat is also available on the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.

As a survivor of domestic abuse, professional counseling can help you heal – whether it’s individual therapy, group therapy, or even couples’ therapy. Survivors of domestic violence often develop mental health issues, including anxiety, stress, substance abuse, and PTSD, among others. Studies have found that those survivors who seek counseling yield a medium to large improvement for all of these conditions. 

Online therapy, such as through BetterHelp, makes it easier to discreetly receive help from anywhere that has an internet connection. Online therapy has been proven to be effective in helping with many mental health concerns related to domestic violence, and it has been found to be just as effective in many situation as in-person therapy.  


While the NFL is taking steps to place harsher punishment for acts of domestic violence, some question if it’s enough. The good news is that they are slowly working to recognize the seriousness of domestic abuse, and taking steps to reduce its effect among players and their families.

If you are a survivor of domestic violence, you are not alone. And help is available. At BetterHelp, we are only an internet connection away. But whether you reach out to BetterHelp or someone else, please get help. You deserve a happy life free from domestic abuse. 

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