NFL teams speed up response to domestic violence woes

Thu Sep 18, 2014 6:08pm EDT
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By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The National Football League is showing signs of getting off the sidelines in the brouhaha over domestic violence and taking up a new playbook.

The Arizona Cardinals suspended Jonathan Dwyer after his arrest on charges of head-butting and breaking the nose of a woman. The Baltimore Ravens invited fans to trade in jerseys of former star player Ray Rice, who has been indefinitely suspended for punching out his wife.

If teams have learned anything from the abuse scandal convulsing America's most popular sports league, it may be that acting decisively and quickly against domestic violence is the best way to win in the court of public opinion.

Dwyer is the latest player caught up in the controversy. He was arrested Wednesday on charges of aggravated assault and left an Arizona jail on Thursday.

The team wasted no time in deactivating Dwyer on Wednesday, taking cues from other clubs that kept their players on the field despite similar charges, only to back peddle and take them off the field.

"The Cardinals have the benefit of being fourth in line, so it does benefit them in that sense," said Robert Boland, a former domestic abuse prosecutor who is now a professor of sports management and law at New York University.

One team that reacted slowly was the Baltimore Ravens, which was caught in the early days of the crisis after Rice beat his then-girlfriend in a casino elevator in February. He was kept on the team with a two-game suspension until a security video surfaced last week showing the punch that knocked his now-wife out cold.

The team invited fans to exchange their Rice jerseys on Friday and Saturday at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium for that of another player, the team said.   Continued...

Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer (R) runs against the New York Giants during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ in this file photo from September 14, 2014.  REUTERS/Brad Penner-USA TODAY/Files