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The NFL's Owners Approve New Off-Field Conduct Policy

As it nears the end of a season marred by allegations of domestic abuse by players, the NFL's owners voted to strengthen the league's personal conduct policy Wednesday. The changes include a "baseline" suspension of six games without pay for a first violation in domestic abuse and sexual assault cases.

The new policy could help dispel some of the criticism directed at players, teams and Commissioner Roger Goodell this season, over the handling of two high-profile cases: the domestic abuse case involving Ray Rice and the child abuse case involving Adrian Peterson.

The changes would be made under the NFL commissioner's authority to "define and sanction conduct detrimental to the NFL," the league says, citing its bylaws. They outline a set of steps that the league, teams and players would follow when allegations of abuse arise.

The new Personal Conduct Policy also specifies more prohibited conduct than had previously been outlined.

Here are some highlights of the policy:

  • "A baseline suspension of six games without pay for violations involving assault, battery, domestic violence, dating violence, child abuse, other forms of family violence, or sexual assault, with consideration given to possible mitigating or aggravating circumstances."
  • A conviction isn't necessary for the league to act — but anyone found to have violated the rules will be given a chance to respond to any findings against him before a punishment is announced.
  • The NFL will pay for "counseling and services for victims, families, and violators."
  • The rules include criteria for "paid leave for an individual formally charged with a crime of violence, including domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse."
  • Punishments will range from a suspension to community service to "banishment from the league."
  • The policy applies to "everyone in the NFL," including players, coaches and owners.

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    Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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