WASHINGTON – Earlier this year on September 10, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. and eleven other House Judiciary Democrats issued a letter to the National Football League (NFL) raising questions as to how the league handled the Ray Rice situation and about their domestic violence polices. Also copied on the letter were the National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Soccer (MLS), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Basketball Association (NBA).
In addition to the Ranking Member, the letter was also signed by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Luis Gutierrez (IL-04), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Cedric L. Richmond (LA- 02), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (GA-04), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Judy Chu (CA-27), Karen Bass (CA-37), Suzan K. DelBene (WA-01) and Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08).
Specifically, the Representatives called for transparency concerning the NFL’s misconduct by Ray Rice. In February, Rice violently struck his then-fiancé, Janay Palmer, in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino in February.
John Conyers, Jr.
“I am glad to be able to shed light on the policies of our major professional sports leagues concerning domestic violence. As to the questions my colleagues and I posed to the NFL concerning the league’s handling of the domestic violence perpetrated by Ray Rice, we look forward to receiving the report from former FBI Director Robert Mueller once he has completed his investigations,” said Rep. Conyers. “It is important that we continue to examine the manner in which our professional sports leagues handle incidents of domestic violence. These high-profile leagues are, in many ways, in a position of public trust and should be at the forefront of handling such incidents appropriately.”
In response, the NFL wrote that the league is, in addition to the previously-announced enhanced disciplinary consequences for violations of the league’s personal conduct policy that include domestic violence and sexual assault, the NFL is engaged in a “comprehensive review” of its those policies, including issues related to investigation, assessment, and punishment of violations. The league also announced various actions designed to educate players and league employees about these issues in order to prevent future violations and victimization. As to the questions specifically asked about the Ray Rice incident by the Members in their letter to the NFL, the league’s response refers to the pending investigation by former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller.
In their individual responses, MLB and the NBA stated that they are in the process of reviewing their policies concerning these types of incidents. MLB outlined steps it is taking related to training and education for players and staff, and announced that it will engage the Major League Baseball Players Association on these issues.
The NHL and MLS also provided information about their efforts to educate players about these issues and provided copies of their policies covering off-ice and off-field misconduct, which would include instances of domestic violence.
“We asked the leagues to provide information about their policies concerning domestic violence because it is in the public interest that their policies and implementation thereof be transparent to the public. I trust that the leagues will continue to review and augment their policies in a manner commensurate with the seriousness of the issue,” added Rep. Conyers.
Following issuance of the letter, all leagues have responded with letters or documents regarding their domestic violence policies. See below for each league’s response.
Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. was one of the key authors of the original Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994. VAWA funds programs provide victims with critical services such as transitional housing, legal assistance, and supervised visitation services. Since its enactment, VAWA has helped decrease domestic violence by 53%.