NFL Teams Must Tackle Sexual Assaults or Lose Draft Picks, Lawmakers Say

A.J. FEATHER
NFL Teams Must Tackle Sexual Assaults or Lose Draft Picks, Lawmakers Say (ABC News)

If NFL teams don't tackle the issue of domestic violence and sexual assaults, their draft picks may be in jeopardy.

In a letter sent to National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell today, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, called for the NFL to begin taking away draft picks from teams that do not properly address the issue.

“The NFL has previously penalized teams by removing draft picks for other infractions,” the lawmakers wrote. “We support this potential disciplinary action as a significant indication that the NFL takes these issues very seriously and intends to hold teams responsible for allowing cultures of violence and abuse.”

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Concern over whether the NFL is doing enough to reduce instances of domestic violence among its players reached a fever pitch last summer when the league suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for just two games after Rice was charged with knocking his then-fiancée unconscious in a New Jersey casino. In comparison, players receive a four-game suspension for breaking the league’s substance abuse policy.

NFL teams lose draft picks for many forms of misconduct. The New England Patriots lost their first-round selection in the 2008 draft for illegally videotaping the Jets’ defensive signals and are now under investigation for “DeflateGate,” which could cost the team even more. The New Orleans Saints lost their second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013 after it was discovered that they were offering players a bounty for injuring opposing players.

In the letter to Goodell, Speier and Schatz noted that NFL executive Troy Vincent said the league would potentially use the removal of draft picks as a penalty for teams who were not proactive in preventing instances of domestic violence and sexual assaults at a Dec. 2, 2014, hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. However, Goodell did not mention any potential removal of draft picks in a Jan. 15 letter to Sens. Schatz and Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut.

The lawmakers concluded the letter by asking Goodell to “provide further clarification on whether the removal of draft picks will be used as a penalty for teams that do not appropriately address domestic violence and sexual assault.”

The 2015 NFL draft will take place from April 30 to May 2.