Maine’s gubernatorial candidates have found common ground, saying NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took a step in the right direction when he announced tougher penalties for players accused of domestic violence, including six weeks for a first offense and at least a year for a second.

Goodell’s acknowledgment Thursday that he “didn’t get it right” with a two-game suspension for Ravens running back Ray Rice came two weeks after Maine Gov. Paul LePage sent a scathing letter to the NFL commissioner, joining other leaders who criticized his leniency in the case.

The Republican governor believes in a “zero-tolerance” policy for all acts of domestic violence, but said Goodell’s willingness to take a public stand on the issue is a positive step, Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s press secretary, said Thursday night.

Goodell never mentions Rice by name in a letter and memo sent Thursday to all 32 team owners that was obtained by The Associated Press, but makes clear references to the Baltimore player who allegedly hit the woman who is now his wife.

Goodell told teams to distribute his memo to all players on their rosters and to post it in locker rooms.

It reads in part: “Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances.”

The memo says that violations of the league’s personal conduct policy “regarding assault, battery, domestic violence and sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to enhanced discipline.”

LePage’s opponents in the November election, independent Eliot Cutler and Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, also supported Goodell’s action and echoed the sentiment that more can be done.

“The tougher the penalty for domestic abuse and spousal abuse the better it is for our communities,” Cutler said in a statement issued by his campaign office.

Michaud’s statement said: “Commissioner Goodell made the right decision and is moving in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go to fight against domestic violence and sexual assault. We must have a zero-tolerance policy about violence against women.”

The NFL Players Association said it had been informed of the league’s increased punishments.

“As we do in all disciplinary matters, if we believe that players’ due process rights are infringed upon during the course of discipline, we will assert and defend our members’ rights,” the union statement said.

The personal conduct policy is not subject to collective bargaining with the players’ union, and the commissioner has leeway to impose punishments for such off-field violations.

Besides LePage’s letter, the punishment for Rice drew plenty of attention, including from Congress. Numerous groups that advocate for women and families also criticized the penalty as too lenient.

“My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values,” Goodell said in the memo. “I didn’t get it right.”

Bennett said Goodell never responded to LePage’s letter.

“Giving a mere two-week suspension to Rice is, quite frankly, unconscionable,” LePage said in his Aug. 12 letter. “The man knocked his fiancee (now wife) unconscious, then dragged her body out of an elevator. … If that is the punishment for knocking a woman unconscious, then there is something very wrong with the NFL culture and its policies.”

LePage was beaten by his father and has made domestic abuse prevention and awareness a priority.

“Domestic violence kills people, our governor has made it a priority to talk about it publicly and to share his story. This is his way of trying to make a difference. It’s not a publicity stunt for him. It’s personal,” Bennett said.

Rice’s suspension begins Saturday, about six months after grainy video showed him dragging his then-fiancee off a casino elevator. Rice has never said exactly what happened in the elevator; he has said his actions were “totally inexcusable.”

Julia Colpitts, executive director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, praised the commissioner for taking a tougher stand.

“It sends the clear message that domestic violence is not acceptable,” Colpitts said. “The (Rice) suspension was completely inadequate. It sent the message that this was a minor problem.”


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