NFL revises personal conduct policy to expand penalties for sexual assault offenses

The NFL has revised its personal conduct policy to expand the definition of sexual assault offenses that could result in a more severe penalty.

A first violation of sexual assault “involving physical force or committed against someone incapable of giving consent or involving threats or coercion” will result in a suspension of six games without pay “with possible upward or downward adjustments based on any aggravating or mitigating factors,” according to the policy which was obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“Nothing in this provision precludes the Disciplinary Officer or Commissioner from imposing a suspension without pay of six games or more, including an indefinite suspension, for other types of prohibited conduct. A second violation will result in banishment from the NFL,” the policy states.

Adding the terminology “involving threats or coercion” and expanding possible aggravating factors to now include “a pattern of conduct” and “offenses that involve planning” comes one year after Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended 11 games for violating the personal conduct policy after being accused by more than two dozen women of sexual assault and sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.

Watson was initially suspended six games by a disciplinary officer who pointed out limitations in the league’s policy. The NFL sought a minimum one-year suspension. A settlement was reached after the league appealed the initial ruling.

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