Report Card: Grading The NFL's Progress On Domestic Violence

AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

In September, Roger Goodell talked to the media about NFL players and domestic violence.

The Ray Rice case set in motion a yearlong, national conversation about domestic violence in this country. Often, the NFL was front and center in that conversation. For an in-depth examination of all the league has done, good and bad, please click here. Here's a quick guide to grading the NFL on its efforts to raise domestic violence awareness and increase action around the cause of prevention. 

What The NFL Got Right

• EDUCATION: The NFL has presented a one-hour program to each of its teams and will continue training next season. Its model could be copied and taken to college and high school locker rooms. The goal is cultural change. It's a big idea, but concrete steps such as the ones being taken at a series of high school character summits are a start.

• LEADERSHIP: It might have taken a while, but once NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his staff decided they were going to lead on this issue, they did. Don't underestimate the impact the most popular sport in the United States can have on an issue.

• SPENDING MONEY: The NFL opened its wallet to fund the National Domestic Violence Hotline: $5 million over the course of five years. It donated $35 million in advertising to anti-violence PSAs, it paid to develop and implement an education program, and it hired men and women to consult on the issue. But there is more to be done on this front.

• LISTENING: After the Rice elevator video was released, Goodell called a half-dozen domestic violence experts. Since then, he has visited with dozens of groups, by either flying them to New York or meeting at a group's headquarters. The league got educated, took heat from experts in person and has emerged with an understanding of the issue.

What The NFL Got Wrong

• COOPERATION: The league didn't include the NFL Players Association in the process. As a result, the two entities will likely spar regularly on discipline, which will sap energy from more worthwhile pursuits and prevent a cohesive message to players and staff.

• SELF-REFLECTION: The NFL has been looking forward so much that it hasn't assessed past mistakes. For example, an anonymous survey of NFL wives could have offered important insight into how deep the domestic violence problem goes. That knowledge could help shape future plans. How did NFL team security deal with this issue? Yes, some teams might look bad, but it's important knowledge to gather.

• NEUTRAL ARBITRATION: Other professional sports leagues have it, and it offers players a sense of fairness in the disciplinary process. Goodell appeared to briefly consider it but then backed away. It ensures the trope of Goodell as "judge, jury and executioner" lives on.

• TONE: Somehow, even when doing the right thing, the league can come off as imperious and paternalistic. Or worse: clueless -- see the current handling of Deflategate. This feeds the cynics who say all the good work the NFL is undertaking is just a show so it can keep the $10 billion machine working smoothly.

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