The National Football League: Action Versus Activism

John T. Holden, Joanna Wall Tweedie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Following gossip website TMZ’s September 8, 2014, release of a video showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice striking his then fiancée unconscious in a New Jersey casino elevator, the NFL prominently declared “No More” to domestic violence. In a highly publicized Super Bowl commercial, the NFL announced the launch of a new corporate social responsibility program, No More, which suggested that the NFL would no longer tolerate within its ranks those who commit domestic violence. The No More program preceded a newer, stricter punishment system for players accused of committing domestic violence: a six-game suspension for first-time offenders, followed by a one-year expulsion for second-time offenders, who also would require reinstatement by the Commissioner to play again. Although the NFL has talked tough on domestic violence, this Article’s investigation and resulting study yield little support for the finding that the NFL has truly sought to turn over a new leaf. Instead, the NFL has created a system where players rarely receive a six-game suspension and teams carry the burden of punishing player misconduct. The purpose of this study is to compare the league’s response to players’ arrests for domestic violence against the league’s domestic violence policy and activism. As opposed to standing up and saying No More, the league has latched on to nonviolent crimes as a justification for punishment, has not adhered to its suspension guidelines, and has deferred to teams the responsibility for handling these incidences. Although the NFL has quite prominently engaged in activism, condemning the evil acts of those who commit domestic violence, it has taken few actions to eliminate domestic abusers from its player ranks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-424
Number of pages28
JournalOregon Law Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


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