U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., on Wednesday criticized NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his handling of domestic abuse cases involving football players, including former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
In a letter to Goodell, Heller questioned whether the NFL had treated lightly domestic abuse charges and accusations against players.
Heller also asked Goodell for “a detailed explanation regarding your actions in response to the acts of domestic violence conducted by Rice.” He said he wanted information about “whether anyone in the NFL knew about the elevator video,” which showed Rice hitting his then-fiancée.
“If so, when did they know, who did they tell and why did it not get to you?” Heller asked.
“As a father of two daughters, ending domestic violence has always been a top priority of mine,” Heller said. “I’ve supported legislation against domestic abuse, held roundtables combating sexual assault on college campuses, and served as a staunch supporter in protecting women from violent acts by their loved ones. Addressing these issues transcends politics and is the main reason I’ve worked in a bipartisan manner to combat them. The prevalence of domestic abuse must not be tolerated in our society.”
Heller said the NFL must set a better example for society.
“As one of the most watched enterprises in the world, the actions of the NFL and its members touch the lives of many people around the world,” Heller said. “Because of this, I believe the NFL has a duty to serve as a steward in combating domestic violence.”
“Furthermore, the head of the NFL, Commissioner Goodell must understand the scope and severity of domestic abuse acts,” Heller added. “Judging from his actions, it’s time for the NFL to step its game up on this important matter.”
Heller noted that since 2000, 85 of the 713 arrests of NFL players have been for domestic violence, according to press reports.
Until last month, he said, the punishments typically were a suspension for one or two games.
“While the NFL did adopt new standards of punishment for domestic assault, I am now uncertain whether your role as the sole decider on punishment by the League provides the necessary transparency to properly hold those associated with the NFL accountable for acts of domestic violence,” Heller told Goodell in the letter.
On Wednesday, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press he sent a video of Rice punching his then-fiancée to an NFL executive five months ago as league executives,including Goodell, maintained they didn’t see the violent images until this week.
The NFL said Wednesday night former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III will be conducting an independent investigation into the matter.