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Congressional letter addresses domestic violence in male sports leagues, not women's

Congress is looking into the domestic violence policies of professional men's leagues but fails to look at women's leagues.

Goalkeeper Hope Solo currently has a pending domestic violence case.
Goalkeeper Hope Solo currently has a pending domestic violence case.
Craig Mitchelldyer

The National Football League and the Ray Rice domestic violence situation seems to have a new chapter unfolding every day - heck every hour. Wednesday, it began to creep into the other major sports leagues in the US as well. US Congress sent a letter* to the NFL, Major League Soccer, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association and urged them to make their domestic violence policies public. The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee wants to work with the leagues to improve their review processes and to help cut down on any incidents in the future. MLS Commissioner Don Garber told SI's Grant Wahl that he would respond to the committee with the league's policy.

"We'll respond to the committee with our policy," Garber said in the article by Wahl. "We as a league stand very strongly with our players union to have a zero-tolerance policy for racism, homophobia and violence of any kind. I have broad powers to discipline players, owners and any employee of the league as it relates to any of these issues. I'm proud to say in the 19 years of MLS there has never been a reported incident of player domestic abuse ... Should something like that happen in our league, we'd deal with it swiftly."

When it comes to crime, MLS has a lower number of players committing crimes than the other major sports do, something Dynomaam looked at in depth back in March. When it comes to domestic violence in MLS, FC Dallas team president Doug Quinn was accused but later cleared of the crime. However, he had stepped down from his position with the team before Garber was ever forced to make any sort of ruling on the situation.

Interestingly, Congress did not send the letter to any of the women's sports league's in the United States. So while it made sure to cover the five major men's sports leagues, it failed to touch on the women's leagues. However, both the WNBA and NWSL have had players accused of domestic violence. In 2012, WNBA player Deanna Nolan was arrested for assaulting her wife. Earlier this year Seattle Reign and USWNT player Hope Solo was arrested for domestic violence. She is accused of assaulting both her sister and nephew at a party in Seattle. Solo had plead not guilty to the charges and her trail is set for November. The NWSL does not have a personal conduct policy like the NFL, but
when I spoke to the league about their policies back in June, I was told they do have personal conduct language in their standard player agreement and player handbook. However, the player agreement and handbook are internal documents. The NWSL Operations manual includes the right to fine and/or suspend for major misconduct. Under major misconducts is a section for heinous acts, 'a violent physical assault on another arising out of the scope of one's employment, or being convicted or pleading no contest to a major misdemeanor or felony.' But no specific fines or suspension are listed for any violations under major misconduct.

Congress' failure to include the women's leagues in this matter highlights the continual misconception that women can't be perpetrators. Domestic violence isn't a crime only committed by men, it is also committed by women. To look at only one side of the issue, the side that people on social media are screaming about- Ray Rice hitting his fiancee, leaves an entire group of people at risk. The people who are abused by women are just as real as the victims who are abused by men. Male and female abusers should be abhorred and there should be no place for them in our professional sports leagues.

*FULL COPY OF CONGRESSIONAL LETTER TO ROGER GOODELL

Dear Commissioner Goodell:

We write concerning the important issue of domestic violence, which unfortunately impacts every level of our society, and which we must find ways to combat comprehensively. Our professional sports leagues are important economic and cultural institutions in the United States and we are interested in the manner in which these leagues handle incidents of domestic violence by their players, owners, and other employees. We believe that these high-profile professional leagues are, in many ways, in a position of public trust and should be at the forefront of handling such incidents appropriately.

With this year marking the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act, we all recognize that this issue requires strengthened and sustained efforts by individuals, organizations, and government. Of course, we are particularly concerned about information that has come to light about the perpetration of domestic violence by one of the NFL's players, Ray Rice, against his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, in an elevator at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey on February 15, 2014.

Given the important role the NFL and the other major professional sports leagues can play in shaping public perceptions concerning domestic violence, it would appear to be in the public interest to have the highest level of transparency associated with reviews of potential misconduct.

Thus for example, while we understand that you have stated in an interview yesterday on behalf of the NFL that, "We assumed that there was a video, we asked for the video, we asked for anything that was pertinent, but we were never granted that opportunity," to our knowledge the public has not been informed as to specifically how and in what context the request was made, and specifically how relevant law enforcement responded. Nor has there been a full explanation as to whether the video was requested of others, such as Mr. Rice's attorney or the casino where the incident occurred (and if not, why not), or whether any employees, agents, or consultants of the league or any of its teams outside of your office had access to the video prior to September 8. We therefore urge greater transparency and explanations of these matters.

We welcome your recent willingness to change the NFL's policies regarding issues of domestic violence, and we also believe other major professional sports leagues should consider making their policies public and reviews transparent as well. We look forward to working with you and all of the major professional sports leagues so that we can all participate in the effort to reduce incidents of domestic violence, increase transparency in their review, and better respond to those cases that unfortunately do occur.

Sincerely,

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.)
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (Ill.)
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.)
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas)
Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (La.)
Rep. Henry C. "Hank" Johnson Jr. (Ga.)
Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.)
Rep. Judy Chu (Calif.)
Rep. Karen Bass (Calif.)
Rep. Suzan K. DelBene (Wash.)
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.)

cc: CC: The Honorable Bob Goodlatte, Chairman, House Committee on the Judiciary; Mr. Gary Bettman, Commissioner, National Hockey League; Mr. Don Garber, commissioner, Major League Soccer; Mr. Bud Selig, Commissioner, Major League Baseball; Mr. Adam Silver, Commissioner, National Basketball Association