WASHINGTON (AP) — A day before a Senate hearing on domestic violence he will not attend, the head of the NFL Players Association said the union is establishing an eight-member commission to advise it on the issue.
In a letter sent Monday to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith wrote that “when these matters are left solely to the NFL, the process is mismanaged and often the end result has not been able to withstand outside review.”
Rockefeller’s committee is holding a hearing Tuesday about domestic violence in professional sports, with representatives of the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball scheduled to testify. Officials from the basketball, hockey and baseball unions are also scheduled to appear.
Smith told Rockefeller that “long-scheduled overseas travel prevented” the NFLPA from participating Tuesday.
Domestic violence has become a main topic across the sports landscape in recent months, particularly in light of the case of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
He punched his then-fiancee — now wife — in a casino elevator and originally was suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for two games, then barred indefinitely after video of the fight emerged. Eventually, though, that second punishment was erased by an arbitrator when Rice appealed.
In the NBA, Charlotte Hornets forward Jeffery Taylor was suspended for 24 games without pay in November after pleading guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence assault and malicious destruction of hotel property.
Smith met last week with Goodell to discuss the league’s personal conduct policy.
“We also have attempted to engage the NFL in formal negotiations and bargaining to improve the personal conduct policy and the processes by which it is to be administered. We provided the NFL with a fair proposal over three weeks ago and despite the receipt of a letter response only yesterday, the NFL has refused to commit to collective bargaining,” Smith wrote to Rockefeller.
“We believe that a jointly bargained system is the only way to ensure that professional football’s approach to the issue of domestic violence has credibility and effectiveness with the fans, the sport’s business partners, and our players.”
Smith apologized for missing the hearing and told Rockefeller the NFLPA would meet with any member of the Senate panel another time.
The union’s commission includes Georgetown Law professor Deborah Epstein and former White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler.
“The current system, run unilaterally by the NFL, simply does not work,” Smith wrote.