In late January, NFL teams were informed by the league that players with domestic violence, sexual assault, and weapons charges would be banned from participating in the rookie scouting combine, and thus be made ineligible for the NFL Draft.
In a memo obtained by USA Today, executive vice president of football operations, Troy Vincent, wrote that prospects who failed a background check for felony or misdemeanor conviction, or do not submit to a background check, would be excluded from "any league-related event."
"It is important for us to remain strongly committed to league values as we demonstrate to our fans, future players, coaches, general managers, and others who support our game that character matters," Vincent, a former player himself, said.
USA Today says the new rule will only affect a few of the 300-plus players who participate in the scouting combine, where potential rookies are measured in drills like weight-lifting, the 40-yard dash, and the Wonderlic intelligence test, each year.
Players with convictions who are not eligible will still be able to participate in private, individual workouts with teams. And an apparent loophole in the new ban allows for players who have been accused of crimes, but not convicted (like last year's number one pick, Jameis Winston who faced allegations of sexual assault), to continue toward the Draft.
The NFL has been the subject of several PR disasters for tone-deaf responses to violent acts committed by players in the last few years. In 2014, commissioner Roger Goodell suspended running back Ray Rice for only two games after video footage of him hitting and dragging then-fiance Janay Palmer out of an Atlantic City casino elevator surfaced online.
More recently, quarterback Johnny Manziel has been the subject multiple alleged assaults on his girlfriend; there is currently an ongoing criminal investigation. In December 2015, the website Broadly published an expose naming 44 current NFL players accused of domestic violence or sexual assault, saying "as isolated incidents, such allegations are deeply disturbing; as part of a pattern, they reveal a dangerous disregard for women."
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