Is a Lifetime Ban the Answer to Domestic Violence for NFL Players?

Greg Hardy will face a lifetime ban from the NFL if he commits a second domestic violence offense.
Carolina Panthers NFL football defensive end Greg Hardy leaves the Mecklenburg County jail after being released on bond in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Hardy was arrested Tuesday and charged with assault on a female and communicating threats. (AP Photo)

by Justin Block

When convicted domestic abuser Greg Hardy returns to the NFL on Sunday, his history of violence against women will follow him to the team parking lot, through AT&T Stadium, into the locker room and out onto the field. But should he ever harm a woman again, that same history will push him off the field and out of the league for life.

In the 13 months since TMZ published video of Ray Rice knocking out Janay Palmer in a casino elevator, both the NFL and the Canadian Football League have developed new domestic violence policies in close association with domestic violence experts that take a “help me help you” approach to aggressors and victims alike.

Buried deep within both of those new domestic violence policies is another type of possible punishment, perhaps the ultimate punishment a league can hand down to any man who makes his living playing football: a lifetime ban.

In the NFL’s case, it’s two strikes and you’re out. Hardy already has one. In July 2014, he wasconvicted of assaulting and threatening Nicole Holder, an ex-girlfriend whom Hardy had choked and then thrown onto a couch covered in guns earlier that year.

“If we investigate him and determine there’s sufficient evidence to find that he committed a second domestic violence offense, then yes, he would face banishment for life, absolutely,” Lisa Friel, the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, told The Huffington Post.

The possibility of a lifetime ban has been little discussed since the new policies were announced by the NFL in August 2014 and the CFL this August. But whether the punishment is an appropriate one raises important questions. How do you discipline domestic abusers in a manner that actually reduces violence and helps victims, rather than punishes the abuser for punishment’s sake? And when, if ever, would a lifetime ban do that?

The answers to those questions are complicated, as each domestic violence case is unique to the two people involved. The mere threat of a lifetime ban sounds like a powerful weapon that could deter players from abusing their partners. Experts, however, disagree on whether it is an effective deterrent. Ruth Glenn, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence believes that no deterrent, not even the possibility of losing one’s livelihood, will stop a perpetrator from violence in the moment. Rita Smith, an NFL senior advisor on domestic violence and sexual assault who helped create the NFL policy, challenged that assertion.  

“I don’t believe that’s true of all people who chose to use violence,” she said. “I think that probably a significant number of them can be educated about what triggers them to use that violence and other opportunities for them to get results without doing the things they’re doing. But I do think there’s a small subset who use violence and it escalates and escalates, and are in fact lethal people no matter what we do.”

Research on domestic violence deterrence has largely focused on arrests and prosecution as a means to prevent recurring abuse. A 2009 report from the U.S. Department of Justice found that police involvement, regardless of whether the abuser was arrested or not, has a strong deterrent effect, but previous research has argued that arrests are only effective when the abuser has something to lose in their social environment. On the sentencing side, the same U.S. Department of Justice report stated that prosecuting offenders without taking into consideration their specific risk level does not deter future abuse.

In all, it’s difficult to say whether the threat of a lifetime ban will preempt violence, but the research suggests that initial intervention from either the police or the perpetrator’s local community can have a powerful impact in preventing more abuse.

Such a severe threat, however, could deter a financially dependent victim from reporting the abuse. Holder was one of those women. She often had her rent paid by Hardy and didn’t immediately give a statement to police for fear of retaliation.

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SOURCE: The Huffington Post