A group of 16 female senators, including Maryland Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski, have written a scathing letter to Roger Goodell about the National Football League’s handling of violence against women.
The letter comes after reporting by The Associated Press that the NFL was sent graphic elevator video of now-former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée Janay Rice.
“It is long past time for the NFL to institute a real zero-tolerance policy and send a strong message that the league will not tolerate violence against women by its players, who are role models for children across America,” the 16 senators wrote. “We hope the NFL will seize this opportunity to lead by example and demonstrate its commitment to the safety of women and families.”
In their letter, the senators say Goodell’s recent revisions to the policy regarding suspensions for domestic violence do not go far enough. Goodell is the son of a Republican senator from New York, Charles Goodell, who was appointed to the Senate to fill out the unexpired term of Robert F. Kennedy.
The letter comes as lawmakers are recognizing the 20th anniversary of the landmark Violence Against Women Act.
Other Democrats to sign the letter include: Barbara Boxer of California; Debbie Stabenow of Michigan; Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Patty Murray of Washington; Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire; Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota; Dianne Feinstein of California; Mazie Hirono of Hawaii; Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Tammy Baldwin of Washington; Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Maria Cantwell of Washington.
Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Susan Collins of Maine also signed the letter.
The full letter from the 16 female senators appears below:
Dear Commissioner Goodell:
As we mark the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, we call on the NFL to institute a real zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence that will ensure that this type of violence and abuse has no place in the NFL.
We were shocked and disgusted by the images we saw this week of one of your players violently assaulting his now-wife and knocking her unconscious, and at new reports that the NFL may have received this video months ago. Tragically, this is not the only case of an NFL player allegedly assaulting a woman even within the last year.
We are deeply concerned that the NFL’s new policy, announced last month, would allow a player to commit a violent act against a woman and return after a short suspension. If you violently assault a woman, you shouldn’t get a second chance to play football in the NFL.
The NFL’s current policy sends a terrible message to players, fans and all Americans that even after committing a horrific act of violence, you can quickly be back on the field.
It is long past time for the NFL to institute a real zero-tolerance policy and send a strong message that the league will not tolerate violence against women by its players, who are role models for children across America. We hope the NFL will seize this opportunity to lead by example and demonstrate its commitment to the safety of women and families.