Vincent,the executive vice president of football operations for the NFL,said his personal history makes him an advocate for domestic violence victims – and open to admitting that the NFL has made mistakes in handling players accused of abuse.
“We’ve been humbled,” he said. “We accept the criticism we’ve received. We will get this right.”
Vincent,who played for four NFL teams from 1992 to 2006,was one of eight league representatives who testified Tuesday at a packed Senate Committee on Commerce,Science and Transportation hearing. Representatives from the MLB,NBA and NHL also spoke.
The National Football League Players’ Association originally declined to send a representative to the hearing,but Deputy Managing Director Teri Patterson represented the association. No league commissioners attended the hearing.
The hearing came days after former Ravens player Ray Rice’s NFL suspension was overturned in court. Rice was shown assaulting his then-fiancée Janay in now-infamous elevator surveillance footage. She appeared on NBC’s “Today” show Monday and said Rice never hit her before the February assault.
Committee members talked about barriers that prevent spouses abused by players from coming forward. Those include fear of losing financial stability and being shamed.
Sen. Marco Rubio,R-Fla.,and other committee members asked Vincent about Rice’s disciplinary record.
“I know what would’ve happened to Ray Rice if he tested positive for marijuana. I know what would’ve happened to Ray Rice if he tested positive for steroids,” he said.
Vincent said the league’s policies,last updated in 2007,have not kept up with its values. He said the league is revising the policies and will create a conduct committee to monitor the new procedures. The league will also create a mandatory domestic violence education program for coaches,players and their families.
“We believe that wearing the uniform of an NFL player is a privilege. It is not a right,” Vincent said. “Every member of the NFL community must embrace this unique leadership role.”
Sen. Jay Rockefeller,D-W.Va.,the committee chairman,talked about professional athletes being idolized by children. He said it “uniquely reverberates” when an athlete is charged with domestic violence.
“As a nation,we have a responsibility to collectively and aggressively address this terrible problem,” he said.
Rockefeller addressed people who may wonder why Congress is involved in professional sports,emphasizing that tax money is spent on stadiums and that some leagues are exempt from antitrust laws.
“It is entirely proper for this committee to focus its attention on how professional sports leagues and their unions are handling the problem of domestic violence,” he said.
Several league representatives presented potential solutions,including increasing player education,letting family members know about domestic violence hotlines and developing awareness programs for recruits.
“We want to make sure that every player,wife,significant other and family member has a safe environment to seek help without fear of retaliation or additional harm,” Michele Roberts,executive director of the NBA’s player association,said. “Everyone must be comfortable that there is a safe and confidential to seek help.”
Reach reporter Ayana Stewart at [email protected] or 202-408-1493. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.