Press Box Perspective: You Can’t Teach an Old League New Tricks

By Dan Hiner

The football world has been swirling over since last week after the journal of New York Giants kicker Josh Brown was released to the public.

In his journal, Josh Brown admits to abusing his wife, Molly Brown. Josh Brown was arrested on May 22, 2015 following an incident with his wife.

A Giants representative said the team was unaware of the journal or any admission from Josh Brown but was aware of the incident.

The NFL suspended him one game for the 2016 season opener, and he was put on the Commissioner’s Exempt List on Friday and subsequently released by the Giants on Tuesday.

But in 2014, the NFL modified its policies regarding the punishment of players involved in domestic violence.

The league required a minimum six-game suspension for anyone involved in such acts. But following the Josh Brown suspension, the NFL announced the league’s mandatory six-game suspension could be reduced or increased at the discretion of the league.

Following Ray Rice’s domestic violence debacle, Goodell and the NFL created a committee to work with the league in regards to domestic and sexual violence.

So, what happened to the committee NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell put in place in 2014?

The NFL and Goodell received praise from the public after announcing the formation of four women to consult the league and help determine punishments if a player was accused of assault.

Lisa Friel, the former head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, was retained as an adviser when the group was formed.

Jane Randel, co-founder of NO MORE, and Rita Smith, the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, were also a part of the group.

It’s understandable that Goodell, who considers himself the NFL’s judge, jury and executioner, would want to limit the negative publicity and punishments associated with NFL players. But how much attention has been paid to the committee — a group comprised of third-party advisers who specialize in domestic violence?

Where were they in the decision to suspend Josh Brown?

In a letter sent from Goodell to the NFL’s teams in 2014, Goodell referred to the members of the committee as “leading experts to provide specialized advice and guidance in ensuring that the NFL’s programs reflect the most current and effective approaches.”

Unfortunately, this probably means there were only two possible scenarios. Either Goodell and the league issued the suspension without consulting the committee or the committee agreed with the one-game suspension.

This sadly means the NFL and Goodell learned nothing from the Rice incident in 2014 and still holds onto its view of women as second-class fans.

The league’s policies and procedures that were put in place, at best, didn’t work. And at worst, the changes were just a facade to act as if the league really wanted to change its view on violence against women at all.

Now we have to sit and wait — observing the Josh Brown investigation and the NFL’s response. But that unfortunately means another player must attack a woman for the NFL to prove it’s learned from its past mistakes.