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NFL Announces Severe Penalties For Domestic Violence Offenders

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Roger Goodell says he's seen the error of his ways.

As a result, NFL players will be dealt with severely if found to have committed domestic violence.

Saying in a letter to owners that he "didn't get it right" with Ray Rice, the league's commissioner announced a dramatic new policy on Thursday.

Under the new guidelines, a first-time domestic violence offender would receive a six-game suspension, while a second offense would result in a lifetime ban.

Goodell told teams to distribute to all players the memo, which says, 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 commissioner came under fire for his punishment of Baltimore Ravens running back Rice following the much-publicized incident involving his then-fiancee at an Atlantic City hotel back in February. Goodell defending his decision of a two-game suspension for Rice, but that didn't stop much of the nation from saying the penalty was too lenient.

The punishment for Rice drew attention from Congress, and numerous groups that advocate for women.

Rice's suspension begins Saturday, about six months after grainy video showed him dragging Janay Palmer off a casino elevator. Rice has never said exactly what happened in the elevator; he has said his actions were "totally inexcusable."

While Goodell's letter Thursday never mentions Rice by name, it makes clear reference to that case.

"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 wrote. "I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will."

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."

The NFL Players Association said it had been informed of the 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.

An initial offense of this sort will draw a six-week ban without pay, although the memo says "more severe discipline will be imposed if there are aggravating circumstances such as the presence or use of a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child."

In the case of a suspension for a second offense, the memo says, a player "may petition for reinstatement after one year but there is no assurance that the petition will be granted."

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