Gov. Paul LePage is looking to form a partnership with the National Football League to stop domestic violence.

In a Sept. 19 letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, LePage asks him to assemble a group of team owners who are interested in combating domestic violence, and in turn he will form a coalition of governors. He said the league has a “unique opportunity to take a high profile stand against this potentially life-threatening abuse.”

“With the leadership of the NFL, we can make ending domestic violence a national priority,” LePage said. “Men must step up to end domestic violence, and NFL players are prominent role models who can turn the national spotlight on this reprehensible crime.”

Acts of domestic violence by NFL players have overshadowed the start of the 2014-15 season.

LePage sent a letter to Goodell in August asking the NFL to toughen up its domestic violence policy after the league announced that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice would be suspended for two games for hitting his then-fiancée in a hotel elevator.

This month, a video was released showing Rice knocking his fiancée unconscious and then dragging her limp body out of the elevator. Amid national outrage, the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely.


Since then, other domestic violence incidents have been reported, and the league’s uneven response has generated criticism. LePage alluded to his own history with domestic violence, having been abused by his alcoholic father. In a radio interview this month, he said his father caused the death of an unborn sibling by kicking his mother when she was seven months pregnant.

“As I wrote to you previously, I have a zero-tolerance position on domestic violence,” LePage said. “I grew up in a cycle of domestic violence, and I know how it tears apart families and communities.”

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the letter was sent Monday to all governors in the U.S., so the office has not yet received any formal responses from other states.

Three consultants, including a former top-level sex crimes prosecutor in the New York District Attorney’s Office, have been hired to advise the league on domestic violence issues.

A spokeswoman for the NFL said Monday the league would be open to having a discussion with LePage about domestic violence issues. Cynthia C. Hogan was hired recently as the NFL’s vice president of public policy and government affairs.

“We have engaged leading experts to provide advice and guidance in ensuring that the NFL’s programs and policies reflect the most current and effective approaches,” Hogan said in a statement. “We welcome efforts to partner with other leaders to reduce domestic violence. We look forward to discussing these matters with Governor LePage.”


LePage, a Republican, is running for re-election in a tight race with Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who holds a slight lead in publicly released polls. Independent Eliot Cutler is a distant third.

Both Cutler and Michaud have echoed LePage’s zero-tolerance approach to domestic violence.

Having the NFL partner with governors could go a long way in helping to end domestic violence nationally, as long as the effort results in a zero-tolerance message that protects victims and holds perpetrators accountable, said Rosalyn Park, acting director of the Women’s Human Rights Program within The Advocates for Human Rights, a Minnesota-based nonprofit research, education and advocacy group.

“I think it’s important they do it in consultation with service providers and make sure victims’ voices are taken into account,” Park said. “That’s really critical.”

Although the public sector plays the biggest role in ending domestic violence by enacting and enforcing its laws, Park said private sector companies also have a role to play.

She said Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, which owns the Radisson Hotels, trains staff to notice and report sex traffickers and was one of the first companies to pull its sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings after the team announced that running back Adrian Peterson would be allowed to play football while awaiting trial on a child abuse charge. The team reversed course amid a public outcry.

Attached to LePage’s recent letter to the NFL is a list of his efforts to combat domestic violence, which range from speaking about the topic at local high schools to allocating funding.

“But I am only one man,” LePage wrote. “Imagine the powerful, nationwide message we could send if NFL owners and Governors team up to tackle domestic abuse. Please join me in this effort.”

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