Movement in Congress Wants to Strip NFL of Anti-Trust Exemption

WASHINGTON – Several members of Congress have expressed disgust with what they view as the lenient way the National Football League has treated players accused of domestic abuse, with one asserting the sport’s anti-trust exemption should be revoked.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), said recent incidences of abuse confirms that the “current leadership of the NFL cannot be trusted to fairly, genuinely implement policies that address domestic violence” and that the league “has an obligation to do better, and a position of public trust – benefiting from broad anti-trust exemptions granted by Congress, and hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer benefits.”

The anti-trust exemption provided the NFL “can no longer be a blank check,” Blumenthal said, and “can no longer be granted permanently.” He has proposed legislation to sunset the league’s special dispensation and make it renewable every five years.

Blumenthal isn’t alone expressing concern about the NFL’s handling of abuse cases. A bipartisan group of four lawmakers is circulating a petition among members of Congress urging all professional sports franchises to take strong action to bring a halt to violence against women and children.

The petition, in the form of a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has been roundly criticized for his handling of abuse cases, asserts that “when the NFL’s leadership, management and players join together to combat violence against women and children in America, the ultimate achievement will be a nation where it is simply no longer tolerated.”

“As you know, recent allegations of professional athletes committing these heinous crimes have resulted in an important national dialogue about violence against women and children in America,” the petition to Goodell said. “The truth of the matter is that domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse are daily, painful realities for many women and children across our nation. When these vicious crimes are not properly addressed and when offenders are not held accountable, the cycles of violence continue, victims remain in constant jeopardy and fear, and the very lives of women and children are at stake.”

The petition is being circulated by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), and Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas).

The NFL, the nation’s most popular sports league, has been rocked in recent weeks by reports of domestic abuse by some of the biggest names in the game and the commissioner’s understated response. Goodell has acknowledge that the league reacted poorly to the claims and has vowed to impose rules intended to assess harsher penalties.

The league already has instituted a new policy to ban players for six games for their involvement in the first incidence of domestic abuse and a ban for a second occurrence.

Public objections to the NFL’s handling of abuse cases came after Goodell suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games after he punched his then-fiancé, now wife, in the face during an altercation at an Atlantic City, NJ, casino. The initial reaction to what was perceived as a light penalty was harsh but criticism became even more strident when a video of the assault was unearthed, leading Goodell to place Rice on indefinite suspension. He subsequently was released by the Ravens.