It is entirely to the credit of National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to admit that he ‘‘didn’t get it right’’ when he handed down a paltry two-game suspension to Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens running back who allegedly beat his then-fiancee to the point that she became unconscious. In response, Goodell announced new rules, detailed in a letter sent Thursday to the owners of the NFL’s 32 teams. The commissioner now plans to suspend a player for at least 6 weeks for the first offense and banish him from the league for a second offense, although after a year the player can appeal the ruling. These rules finally make domestic violence more serious in the eyes of the NFL than substance abuse, which generally brings a four-game suspension.
Goodell will have a chance to show his new toughness in dealing with Carolina Panthers star Greg Hardy, who was convicted in July of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. Hardy has appealed and requested a jury trial, which won’t happen until after the season. But that may be merely a delaying tactic; if Hardy has a strong claim of actual innocence, Goodell would be justified in waiting until after the legal case is complete. If not, the commissioner can send a strong message by applying the six-game suspension immediately.