The list of lawmakers on Capitol Hill criticizing the National Football League’s handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case is getting longer.
On Thursday, a bipartisan group of 16 female senators sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, arguing the league’s current policy on domestic violence sends a “terrible message” that an athlete can commit a violent act against a women and return to the field after a brief suspension.
The politicians are calling Goodell to institute a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence.
"We were shocked and disgusted by the images we saw this week of one of your players violently assaulting his now-wife and knocking her unconscious, and at new reports that the NFL may have received this video months ago. Tragically, this is not the only case of an NFL player allegedly assaulting a woman even within the last year," the senators wrote. "... If you violently assault a woman, you shouldn't get a second chance to play football in the NFL,” they added.
Goodell announced a new domestic violence policy in August that imposes a six-game suspension without pay for first-time offenders. A second offense results in a lifetime ban, although players are allowed to petition for reinstatement after a year.
The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Senators Barbara Boxer of California, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Patty Murray of Washington, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Dianne Feinstein of California, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Maria Cantwell of Washington.
Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Susan Collins of Maine were also on board.
This week, several other lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and 12 Democrats on the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee have demanded answers from Goodell and the NFL. The influential National Organization for Women, has gone as far to call on Goodell to resign.
In July, Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games after a video surfaced on Feb. 19 showing the Baltimore Ravens running back dragging Janay Palmer, his then-fiancee and now wife, out of an elevator at the Revel hotel casino in Atlantic City, N.J.
It was only this week that 27-year-old Rice was indefinitely suspended from his team after TMZ released a video on Monday of the same incident showing the football player punching Palmer in the face. The NFL claims it has not seen the second video until Monday, although a law enforcement official –speaking on the condition of anonymity -- told the Associated Press that the league received the videotape of the assault in April.
The NFL has since hired former FBI director Robert Mueller to conduct an investigation into the incident.
In a statement, the NFL said Mueller’s final report on the attack will be made public. The probe will be overseen by New York Giants owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney. Goodell has promised his full cooperation with the investigation and says Mueller will have access to all the NFL’s records.